May God Forgive

He sits there quiet, just sipping
Not a word spoken, just flipping
Through pages of gold and brown
Leaves angels left lyin’ ’round,

Her voice marks the distance ‘tween dawn and dusk;
The longing I have to watch the dust
Settle ever gently
Upon my grave

There’re no words to be said ’bout my poetry,
Its uselessness
Spent on hatred
Drinkin’ and thinkin’… I’m better off dead;

She said she might like to come join me
Some day
Upon an eve
Encrusted in… summer solstice;

My birthday comes ’round just at that time
But the only shine
On that golden day:
The glint of steel… as I take a knife

Of course I’m alone as it’s done,
The only words
Spoken then
“May God forgive… all my sins.”

Concept 0-2

It was interesting how the world’s roadways had evolved. Adrien stared upwards at the seemingly unending spacetowers, a colloquialism given to the mega-rise structures that penetrated far past the clouds and the historical “skyscrapers” that ceased to exist beyond the 22nd century. Times had changed. Attitudes had changed.

Despite the availability of magstreams and maglev cars, Adrien much preferred the roadways. He loved the feel of the automobile as it wound down the perfectly-paved, mostly-empty streets. He often imagined what it must have been like in the past, crowded with people. What public transportation must have been like, the bustling of a crowded station, the sensation of being a part of the teeming mass of humanity that comprised a city populous.

Everything is… darker.

A song popped into his mind.

Everyone is…

“Darker,” He sang quietly, then smiled.

***

Thom Hoburg  was sitting at the head of the conference room table, his back to the large bay windows that let in brilliant beams of sunlight, intently reading something on his personal tablet.

The clean-cut creases upon Hoburg’s face tightened somewhat as he heard rapid footsteps from outside.

“Good morning.” Adrien said casually as he flung the doors open and entered the room. Hoburg nodded vaguely in reply, still immersed in what he was reading and his own thoughts. Adrien quietly sat down in a chair across from him, kicking back on the legs of the table so he rolled away a bit while spinning.

When he came to a stop, Adrien was staring out the window. He put his hand up to his eyes to block some of the light and continued to stare, watching the clouds roll past the windows, the ground below hardly visible.

Some minutes passed.

Finally, Hoburg said without looking up: “Good work handling the Southwestern insurgents.”

Adrien shrugged noiselessly. “It was mostly Faulkner.”

“Not according to the Committee,” Hoburg looked up and quietly turned off his tablet’s display. The Committee was an oversight network of SIs that monitored all personal SI neural lace feeds 24/7. An automated inquisitorial board, if you would.

Suddenly, as if he could hold it in no more, Hoburg added: “Sullivan was killed by a high-pressure coolant explosion while he was investigating an aberrant SI at a Northwestern facility.”

Adrien raised an eyebrow and his expression became furled. Sullivan was a senior field agent at Msec and a good friend of Hoburg’s — he wouldn’t be killed so easily. Certainly not by something as unlikely as a coolant explosion: either Hoburg was lying about the cause of death, or someone had pre-meditated Sullivan’s murder.

Adrien guessed it was most likely the latter.

Hoburg continued. “His invitrion endoskeleton remained, but the coolant managed to pierce his skull-casing and obliterate his brain and his SI.”

Adrien looked quietly at the floor, trying to make sense of this. “I’m sorry for our loss, sir.”

Hoburg nodded, his eyes darting to the side, pupils directed towards the wall. No doubt all of this was much harder on Hoburg than he let on.

Hoburg continued gazing at the wall from the corners of his eye-sockets, for some reason avoiding looking at Adrien’s face. He added quietly: “In response, the Committee’s decided that they need a Master Investigator who’s…” Hoburg stopped there, the gravity of what he was about to say pressing upon his mind and chest.

“More daring,” Hoburg finally finished after a long moment’s pause.

“Who have they picked?” Adrien asked, contemplating that Hoburg had rephrased the Committee’s actual words, likely because the decision was something that didn’t sit so well with Hoburg himself.

Hoburg nodded, finally looking back at Adrien. “You.”

The monosyllable reply hung in the air.

Hoburg had never liked Adrien. He’d always seen Adrien as a wildcard: a beast that could not be tamed and therefore had to be kept caged. But he had to admit, the insurgents were animals, and it was only fitting to let a beast hunt other animals.

And Adrien… well, he was a thorough-bred predator if Hoburg had ever seen one; an animal whose entire genetics were founded upon the thrill of the hunt. Adrien didn’t even know it, but Hoburg could see it: Adrien was a murdering machine whose only redeeming factor was that he’d been raised in a time and age where he could not evoke his best traits.

Adrien looked up. Almost as if he could read Hoburg’s deepest thoughts, the furl upon his brow grew into a full-out frown.

“What about –”

“Don’t say ‘what about Vernier.’ Even Ella-Louise vouched for you, and she’s his wife,” Hoburg snapped back, a touch of his contempt towards Adrien seeping into his words. Don’t pretend like you care was what Hoburg truly thought. He closed his eyes to rid himself of the biased opinion which he knew to be untrue. Adrien was still human, and he was still empathetic.

Hoburg, briefly, recalled what Sullivan had been like before getting augmented and after getting augmented. It had been over 20 years ago that Hoburg and Sullivan had been heatedly debating whether or not the two of them should get augmentations.

Sullivan had decided to go for it. Hoburg had not, preferring to remain completely biological.

They’d had a falling out before the operation and Hoburg had quietly assumed that he and Sullivan would never be friends again. But after the operation, Sullivan changed. He became… more composed, more empathetic. He and Hoburg had made up their differences and become even greater friends in the process.

Perhaps, Hoburg reasoned, the augmentation process would have a similar effect on young Adrien. “This is about you, Adrien,” he added softly.

Adrien nodded grimly and turned his eyes to the floor, staring intently at as he disappeared into a bout of intense introspection.

Some part of Adrien was ecstatic, despite Sullivan’s death. Sullivan, who had been his mentor when he had first been accepted into Msec. A sense of disgust pervaded his self-consciousness as he realized he was more happy for the promotion than he was sad for the loss of Sullivan. But he put it aside. That he felt some disgust was a healthy enough sign that he was not himself a bad person. Any further caustic self-judgement was counter-productive, something he’d learned a long time ago.

“You have the opportunity to get augmented now,” Hoburg said after carefully examining Adrien for a few minutes. He turned to stare out the window with a deep breath, his back now facing Adrien. “I’ve booked you for an O.R. next week, you’re free to take it or leave it.”

A slight sigh escaped Adrien’s lips as he looked up. “I’m sorry for our loss, sir,” was all his flustered mind could muster to repeat.

Hoburg nodded silently, actually consoled by the words. “I received your message regarding the Beijing financial SI. I’m assigning Ryan Juris to the case in your stead so you can start taking care of your new tasks as Master Investigator — the first of which is to contact Alice Sterling and schedule a review for the new Kusanagi-series exoskeleton armor.

“In the meantime, make a decision about getting augmented. You’re assigned Sullivan’s case either way.”

“Yes, sir,” Adrien nodded, his mind a flurry. He remembered Ryan Juris and concluded Ryan was an excellent replacement choice. As for whether or not to get augmented… Adrien bit his lower lip slightly as he drew blank uncertainty.

Hoburg waved his hand, indicating Adrien was dismissed. Tight-lipped and intense, Adrien swiftly got up and left, leaving Hoburg to contemplate things by himself.

Concept 0-1

The oceans. We all came from them.

Maybe that’s why I love floating in the water so much.

I wonder if our ancient ancestors, the ones we evolved from, I wonder if they stared at the sun — reached out for it. I wonder if that’s why they escaped from the water onto the land.

The sun’s shining down. Refractive patterns shimmer upon the ocean floor. I reach out and touch them. Suddenly, I realize it’s all so surreal. I breathe. I can breathe. I can breathe underwater.

I look up at the sun and reach out. Slowly, everything else in my vision disappears into the radiant brightness of the sun.

I wake up. The sun’s shining on my face through a crack in the curtains.

“God damnit” he muttered under his breath as he angrily tore himself out of his covers and sat up in bed, his feet hanging off the side. He sighed and rested his head in his hands, letting gravity help pull his shadowed eye-sockets into the balls of his palms as he gently massaged the sleep out of his eyeballs.

He rested that way for a moment and sighed again.

**

Adrien Cristof got into the backseat of the automobile he’d flagged down and slammed the door shut. The emotion from the dream he’d had that morning still lingered in his mind: the warmth, the sensation of floating, the beauty of the golden sun…

He closed his eyes with a squinting expression and shook his head briefly but violently, trying to dislodge the lingering thoughts and emotions. He opened his eyes again as he tapped the base of his neck to reactivate his companion SI who, for lack of originality, he’d grown habituated to calling S.

Good morning, Adrien, S’ warm and melancholy voice sang hauntingly into his skull. Msec?

“Yeah,” Adrien replied verbally. The automobile began to accelerate and steer itself as S tapped into the controls. Usually Adrien de-abstracted the instructions, perusing the SI’s command interface for his own enjoyment. But today, he was not in the mood.

Having access to Adrien’s brain through his neural lace, S understood this. In fact, S could interpret and read Adrien’s thoughts with uncanny accuracy and knew exactly what was bothering him and why. Despite this, for Adrien’s own human comfort, S put up the guise of a normal conversation, the kind Adrien might have with a good friend who happened to be able to read his expressions instead of a construct able to parse the thoughts in his mind.

Another bad dream? S asked gently.

“Actually, it was a good one.”

Oh?

He shrugged and sighed. Sometimes the fact that Adrien knew S was just faking it bothered him. This happened to be one of those times.

Sorry, S said in response.

It’s okay. Adrien communicated telepathically. It was never S’ fault. Just…

I can call up Ella-Louise if you’d like, S spoke up.

Just, sometimes Adrien wanted to speak with a real human. S had read that subconscious thought before Adrien’s conscious had fully registered it. Adrien smiled. A lot of people found SIs to be too invasive and often chose to live out their lives subjugating their companion SIs to menial roles. Adrien found S’ perspective to be tart and refreshing; a breath of fresh air and a way to escape from the pointless frailties of human friendship.

The sentiment of wanting to talk to a real human passed.

“Nah, S, no need to bother her,” Adrien said decisively.

The oceans are nice, though, S retorted. Especially when you have someone to go with.

Already S had jumped onto the topic of the dream itself. “It might be soothing to use some of those vacation days you have saved up, Adrien.”

Adrien chuckled. “Yeah, maybe.”

It was one of the rare occasions where the idea of a vacation actually appealed to him. “S, what’s on the agenda for today?”

Your usual 9 o’clock with Hoburg, but you already knew that. There are corroborated reports of SI failsafe malfunctions for an intranet of financial SIs operating in Beijing.

Adrien nodded. “Contact the officials responsible for the Beijing SIs and tell them I’ll need a listing of all the personnel they’ve been using to conduct the failsafe evals, and that all involved personnel should be briefed to report to me at…”

9 am tomorrow morning. S finished. I can arrange for an intercontinental transport around 8 am.

“An ICT that soon? Perfect. Oh, and of course, notify Sullivan about our plans.”

Wouldn’t want to keep the chief in the dark, now would we? S said, playing on Adrien’s sense of humor.

Adrien chuckled. “Of course not.” Then, in a serious tone he added, “Not about these things, anyways.”

True Suicide

in darkness dreary, so tired and weary,
weather-worn and cast-aside
rock-like features and leather hide
a beast in all but inside;

his head so leaden, full of dread,
decides ’tis time to die;
no more living among the dead
only to die on the inside.

in twilight eerie, taut and teary,
he sits with gun beside,
for hours at length, brimming fury,
unable to muster to die.

“If only ’twas so easy”, mutters he,
imagining vividly, suicide;
“No more wishing” he breathes succinctly
muzzle-to-eye, peering inside.

With a click, a flash, a bloody splash,
her mind’s insides now reside
across the sheets and red bed-sides.
Still alive, he gently sighs —

“Killing love is true suicide.”

Darkness Fruit

Darkness falls, darkness calls
    green apple trees resolve
those stoutest souls still naive
    to grow, to blossom, to ripen and seed
to try, to strive, to bleed for dreams.
    Come fall, their fruit afoot,
quickly turns to pungent mash
    rotting, trampled, underfoot;
scrounged by the forbidden caste
    but therein their seeds are sown
forgotten beneath men's soles
    years later to rise, to shade
the true fruits of artists' souls.

Love

that so wicked a thought
  ought, for its ephemeral part
to lure me so surely
  atwixt nagging boughs overhanging
thin twisted tendrils latching
  pulling passerby found matching
catching lesser men and scratching
  those powerful few able to eschew
the flowery fragrance and bosom's view.