Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

Written in 365 Parts: 162: We Are Not Good Neighbours

Drick’s head swam but the loud pounding of their own heart was softer now, the rushing blood had subsided. Licking dry lips they coughed a little. They were sat upright in a bed or cot. Soft surface under the whole of their body, trying to open eyes that felt heavy and sticky. Drick squeezed the lids of their eyes together tightly and released a few times, willing moisture onto the dry orbs. Then blinking into bright light as the tears welled up they tried to focus on the room.

“Keep still” the gruff feminine voice, “can you give them something to stop the shaking?”

“Sure,” male voice again, they were a blurry shape. “It will pass anyway, reaction to the poison and temperatures. We nearly lost you. You were seconds from total brain death, I reckon. Which would have been unfortunate, well for us,” Drick detected what sounded like genuine regret. “For you, it would have been better to die.”

“Where am I?” Drick’s voice felt slurred but at least the words were distinct. The shapes were starting to become more solid, edges were less blurry. A face swam into view, male looking with a few days of growth. Sharp cut grey hair, balding in the middle. Overweight, maybe by twenty or thirty kilos above where they would be more comfortable on a spaceship. Though the gravity felt light so they likely didn’t feel those extra pounds. Drick spent too much time going from surface to space to enjoy carrying extra mass. Their eyes were kind, in a sad sort of way. Light grey with flecks of a darker slate, stuck between ice blue and azure.

“You already asked that,” said male voice, “as I said, in the sick bay. We have a few questions for you. You have been unconscious for a few hours. We have you on an intravenous routine to help keep you alive.”

“Is there a price for this service, or are you just some good neighbours?” Drick coughed again and focussed on the female voice, for some reason Drick felt they were in command here. Dark hair, slightly tanned skin, green eyes. They were bulky for their height, couldn’t be more than one hundred and sixty-five centimetres, but broad shoulders and thick muscled neck. Clearly they had a very physical routine, or a tasking type of work. 

There was one other person in the medical bay. They looked male, a little over one hundred and eighty centimetres, with a mass of unkempt blond hair. Drick couldn’t make out their eye colour or other details as they had goggles on and a respirator mask attached to a filter. They were holding a long barrelled plasma pistol. The gun looked as if it had been modified down from a marine issue blaster carbine. A common practice amongst the seedier denizens of the colonies was to modify the, common to buy, illicit carbine to help hide it under clothing. They made no attempt to hide the weapon in this room; it was pointed lazily towards Drick.

“We are not good neighbours,” the female voice replied. “We are the people who saved you just so that you could tell us what happened to the ship we were stalking. Oh, and you might also want to tell me why you had this communicator, and why my husband has a harpoon through his lifeless body.”

Written in 365 Parts: 161: Don’t Try to Move

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud…

Fast repeated booms. Out of sequence like the rhythm section of a freeform Jazz band. Juddering. Stuttering. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Each time it shook Drick’s whole of the body making the nerves scream as if they were bathed in fire. The sound was so loud it shook the whole of their head. It made their eyes twitch even though they were closed. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Air. Can’t breathe. No air. That’s why the heart was irregular. Why the nerves screamed. Every sensation heightened as the body ached for it to end but the brain screamed for any chance. So still they panted. Desperate. Greedy. Aching for a release from the burning in the lungs. How was it possible they were still breathing? They were dead. They had to be dead already.

A shocking realisation. They were breathing air. The sound in their head, the sound of their heart hammering in their chest, forcing blood back into the brain. They could hear. They could feel. They were not dead. The air was fire. It was pepper mixed with acid sprayed onto raw bleeding flesh. It was glorious. 

They struggled but their senses were in turmoil and vision was just a miasma of colourful splashes. How long? How long had they been dead? Why couldn’t they open their eyes?

Voices. They could hear voices. Maybe they were shouting. Hard to tell, harder to understand as the pounding drowned out the sound. There was a rushing noise punctuated by the thuds, which they took to be the sound of their blood. It was as if a raging river were being forced through the ears while someone pounded on their skull with a mallet.

They could feel movement. Some sensations from the body. Trembling limbs, spasms caused by oxygen deprivation and the cold. The cold. The suit had shut down the heating to minimum needed to sustain existence. The eyes felt very cold. The tears had frozen on their eyes and jammed the lids shut. 

The electronics of the suit were shut off. No doubt they had yanked the automatic systems so they could manually give them oxygen. The atmosphere on a spaceship was good enough to support life but not to restore someone from the dead. There had to be a mask, or a tube. That would explain why the lungs burned so much. Oxygen rich gasses were being pumped into them.

Someone was taking off the suit. They could recognise the sensations as the outfit came apart in sections. Each touch and motion caused an agony of sensation. As if they were being beaten. Fiery nerves felt as if they were being kicked around. The pain was unbearable and they drifted into unconsciousness.

Seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days? Hard to tell as they came out of a violent blackness that threatened to tear them apart. They jerked, and rough hands grabbed and restrained them. The thudding was still loud. The rushing still there. But it was lower in intensity and the body no longer shook so much. The rushing in the ears more the murmurs of an angry stream, and not the raging torrents of a rabid river. Again they tried to open the eyes but the muscles wouldn’t obey them. Implants didn’t work. The augmented screens affixed to the inside of the cornea were not responding. Internal repair unit had probably failed to activate. They’d be surprised if half of the electronic systems had survived.

“Don’t try to move” A rough voice that gave good advice. However, it did not sound as if it carried any warmth for their welfare.

“Where Am I?” They tried to say but it came out as mush. Their muscles betrayed them and there was muffling from something that covered their face.

“You’re in our sick bay,” a different voice. Feminine sounding. Still no kindness or warmth. “You were almost gone. We need to administer medication and restoration. Enough to make you able to answer our questions.”

Written in 365 Parts: 160: Already Dead

The two points of light were closer now, more distinct so that it was obvious they were small shuttles. They were two bulky to be fighter craft, though the speed they accelerated indicated someone had done some retro-fitting. 

They were accelerating ahead of their now lumbering parent, each taking a slight arc. It was a sensible approach pattern that widened their sensor reach but still allowed them to overlap and use triangulation for extra precision.

The cameras in the suit could make out a few more details of the vessels, but it was still little at the distance and Drick’s confused mind was having to fill in the gaps. The vessels could not be identified by the automatic recognition database in the suit but Drick recognised the general shape. Space to surface craft. Used by larger vehicles to ferry passengers and cargo from a planet’s surface to a much larger vessel that would stay in orbit. They would have some kinetic engines and likely a booster. It was probably the booster that was accelerating them towards Drick. No doubt they had fitted extra long boosters with more reach as they were coming in still burning fuel. There was a bright light of gases behind each vessel and the camera could just make out the diamonds of a jet-propelled liquid propellant fire.

Suddenly a noise in the helmet. General radio broadcast. The vessels were much closer now. How did they get so close, so quickly. Drick tried to shake their head but it was hard to move, breath was rasping and eyes wouldn’t focus. There were spots across their vision, some bright twinkling lights, others areas of black. There was a burning sensation all the way into the lungs and a flashing red glow. Out of oxygen. How long for they had no idea. Drick had been breathing toxic gases for a few seconds. They passed out some time ago. Radio signals must be from the shuttles. They were using short wave so they were close. How close.

Drick tried to talk but the only sound they made was a rasping squeak. Eyes started to burn as salty tears died on puffing cheeks. Drick tried to hold their breath to stop breathing in the toxic gasses that the suit was pressurised with. How quickly the body betrays even the strongest of wills. Maybe a few seconds before Drick was once again panting and suffocating. Heart was hammering in their chest. Lungs were on fire. Whole body felt as if it was burning, lava running through veins. Whole body was itching as if thousands of insects were biting their way into the flesh and burrowing under the skin. A last gasp before Drick’s body slammed against something. 

A ship. The shuttle must have rammed them. Why bother? They were already dead.

Saturday Morning Walk

As the title suggest this is another walk post with, you guessed it, more images from around Lancaster. I went a little further this time and so the walk covered a lot more to photograph including many canal bridges.

Anyway I went down Lancaster Canal towards Carnforth, got off the canal at Hest Bank, walked down to sunny Bare and from their to the Shrimp roundabout where I joined the riverside path to walk back into Lancaster City Centre.

Enjoy the photos:

Another Bloody Walk

At some point we will all get tired of this… Well I won’t but I will stop posting pictures as I will be covering the same walk… Okay to be brutally honest I will unlikely stop posting pictures as well.

This walk was across Ryelands Park, over Carlisle Bridge, along the river to the wetlands, up the lane to Aldcliffe and the canal, along the canal and then back into the City via Ashton Road to the Shadowcat Offices on White Cross

Pictures below.

Out Walking (Again)

Another day, another hours (which ended up as 90 mins due to a DETOUR) trek around Lancaster.

This time I trudged up the hill to Wliamson Park, down to the canal and detoured round the revitalised Fairfield Gardens and Nature Reserve before passing the castle and down the hill back home.

Some pictures below:

Out Walking

I came back to live in Lancaster in 2006 eventhough I could have chosen to live almost anywhere. I have been asked why Lancaster and not somewhere like Manchester or London and the answer has always been the views.

In the current pandemic crisis that has become even more true. Where else could I live in a city with access to art, culture, shopping and travel and still be within 20 minutes walk of the countryside?

Anyway here’s some pictures from today’s walk.

Written in 365 Parts: 159: I Needed You Alive

“I never was going to tell you anything, as I said, you are a product. You are now inconsequential. The task you were designed for cannot be completed by you. You are too damaged. So you are now expendable, it is why we tried to kill you in the Justice Department.” The figure laughed. “So this assault will eventually fail. Hopefully you will survive so that when I get my new body and have my memories brought up to date I can return the favour and interview you both. Though, I will admit, that I will be making my version very unpleasant.”

Drick read an internal screen and acknowledged the message. Signalling Marsh, Drick confirmed he had done the same. “You think you are going to take us alive?” Drick asked.

“I didn’t expect either of you, or your associates, to attempt a suicide mission. I know you are still in the building, as I am still in the building.”

“Yes, you are.” said Drick.

“That was another of your mistakes. In this building I have a significant amount of control. You should have kidnapped me. Then my implants would have been less effective and my memory not auto-stored to the building’s very secure servers.” The figure slid gently backwards in their chair as a replica of the desk appeared. “I may as well get into the same position for when you drop the construct. Why don’t we do that now so we can talk in the flesh.”

“Not yet,” said Drick, “I would prefer it if you told Marsh just a little more.”

“Why? What value can it serve? He could never get to them.” A gentle laugh, “even I would have difficulty.”

“I am sure they have offices, in fact I think we viewed their schematics,” Marsh replied.

“Yee On Kline is not the intellect that wanted you, and they are not anywhere close to where you could get to.” A longer laugh. “Now let’s drop this foolishness and talk in person.”

“That would be a little hard,” said Drick, “you see we left some time ago.”

“What?” a look of incredulity. “Why would you break in to have a pointless conversation?”

“Actually it has been most useful, “ said Drick, “don’t you agree Marsh?”

“Yup, the idiot leaked way more information than we thought they would.” Marsh laughed.

“You know nothing and it will be of no use to you. What a stupid waste of your time and resources. You did all this to have a few snippets of conjecture.” They were stood now, the desk and chair had disappeared and rage twisted their features.

“No,” said Drick. “I did all this to get all this for an entirely different reason. One that you will never know as in a few moments you will be very dead. Well this version of you will be very dead.”

“As soon as I get my download I will know everything, you will be hunted down.”

“Really. I look forward to you learning what has happened here. I would so like to see your face. I know exactly what you will know.” Drick smiled.

“Why would you do this?” they snarled angrily.

“You will never fully know, and I am not going to tell you. Enough to say we only kept you talking in here because you are the most high ranking operational officer in the compound. It wasn’t about killing you. If I wanted you dead, for any reason and not just for trying to kill me and my friends. Then you would be dead. I needed you alive. But not anymore.”

“Don’t you…”

The molecular explosion that Drick triggered remotely destroyed the entire of the contents of the office, and the windows, ceiling and floor. All of the elements broken apart into simple compounds. It left a gaping hole, a semi-globe like an ice cream scoop had torn through the building, where the highest ranking officer had been. Below alarms were blaring from the secure underground levels and two wisps of, slowly dissipating, smoke and gasses were all that remained of the outside forces.

Written in 365 Parts: 158: Orange Blooms

Charlie fired shots into the remaining security guard in the sub-level ensuring that they would be paralysed for several hours. Alpha covered the corridor from a vantage point part way up the wall while Charlie scanned the four remaining rooms to ensure that it was safe. The security screens, and personnel numbers matching their intelligence, told them they had covered everyone in the three floors they had gone down. But it was second nature to verify with a visual check ensuring they would not be disturbed.

Charlie signalled the floor was clear, and waited as Alpha detached from the wall and joined them. Moving as if one body the two Dricks quickly went into the second room on the left-hand side of the corridor. It was a break room for security personnel. Inside there were several circular metal tables fixed to the floor with seats attached to the underside of the tables. Along one wall were dispensing machines for food and drinks.

Alpha pulled the backpack from Charlie and started to unpack its contents. They passed Charlie a plasma cutting torch and Charlie immediately moved to a table that was in the area indicated on their overlay floor plan. They knelt and started to cut the fixings from the floor so the table could be moved.

Alpha had pulled two large tanks from the knapsack. They were controlled environment flasks. They used a monitor pad to attach to each tank and checked the contents. The internal environment was still inert at the moment and reported as being fully functional. A quick glance at Charlie confirmed the table would be free of its fixings in a few moments. Alpha started the activation sequence on both tanks, and then moved over to Charlie to help them lift and move the table.

They both checked the schematics. The circuit block they needed to interface with was directly below this section of the floor. Between them and the block was nearly three metres of reinforced plasticrete. Alpha placed the tanks on the floor and adjusted them so that they would release their contents directly above the circuit block and released the remote trigger that opened the cannisters. A metallic sludge poured out and instantly started to eat away at the surface of the floor. These were billions of nanorobots that had been specifically designed to pull the reinforced plasticrete apart to its molecular level. Using the exchange of forces for fuel and releasing the vast majority of the elementals that made up the surface as gases and dust particles. A second set of small machines was consuming this dust and gas. Using it to create duplicates of themselves to replace the work out nanobots who had only seconds of life before they wore down. The worn down bots were not wasted, they were re-assembled to be structurally similar to plasticrete and placed carefully to the side of the hole by their own descendents.

It was several worrying minutes before the Dricks saw real progress as the number of nanobots slowly decreased and a clear hole was formed. There was a precise circle of sixty centimetres diameter and three metres depth, at the bottom of which was an embedded block of circuitry. This was the main junction block for the fibre relays of the building. Every piece of electronic information flowed through this junction. It was in reality a very repetitive series of switches and pathways, but was significantly complex enough to be a low level intellect in its own right. 

Alpha readied a small harness for Charlie and then slowly lowered the doppelganger into the hole. The nanobots had all left the hole and returned to the cannisters as was in their instructions. A new programme was being downloaded into their functional matrices for the next stage of their task.

Charlie reached the circuit block and quickly assembled a skeletal framework on top of it. Then they attached several specialised robots onto the arms of the framework they had built. They winched back up the hole and drew a small kinetic shield out. A thought activated the device below and the machine quickly sliced through the billions of fibres that ran into the circuit box and instantly repaired them at the same time placing an interrupter cable into each pathway. 

Alpha had not been idle while Charlie was in the hole. They had assembled a device from the second backpack. It was another pulse weapon, but this acted more like a spike of energy than a wave. Alpha was setting up a complex series of panels, all pointed at the floor below. There was little chance of the spike going all the way through the floor without there being significant help. For this reason they had also started to assemble a small epoxy. It was three inert chemicals that they poured into a large pool onto the floor. One on top of the other. A large paddle was used to stir the chemicals. They then took a small glass bead from a secure box and placed it in the centre of the mix of chemicals.

Charlie waited a few seconds longer than was required to ensure that all the interrupts were functional. They had at least thirty seconds of leeway in the plan and this was a crucial moment. Satisfied that the frame was in place they activated the system and signalled the controller. 

The device was a relay which simply allowed every pathway to receive a signal. But what that meant was that the vast series of intellects Rodero had prepared suddenly had full access to the entire of the network and more importantly the memory stacks for which this main board was the gateway. 

The security system for the building was already severely compromised. Mapped and observed by a few thousand ice programs that had been unleashed on the system. They gave enough insight to the intellect programs assaulting the main data store that it was a matter of microseconds for them to compromise the security. It was a few moments more to unravel the encryption, this was less difficult since Rodero had designed some of the principal algorithms themselves.  Then the system was breached and the intellects started to tear and transmit every item of data from the entire store.

Four minutes passed and then the system reported that they had taken almost all the data and transmitted it offsite using the maintenance relays and compromised satellite dish on the roof of the building. Drick Charlie winched themselves back down to the skeletal structure and quickly signalled it to repair and remove itself from the circuit box. At the same moment Drick Alpha restarted the nanobots who started to rebuild the plasticrete floor. Charlie had just four seconds of grace to remove the skeletal system before the nanobots started to rebuild the plasticrete over the circuit box. They quickly winched themselves out of the hole and nodded to Alpha.

Alpha triggered the small explosive and the ball exploded in the centre of the soup of three inert chemicals. They instantly reacted and turned into a powerful acid that started to melt the plasticrete floor. The nanobots completed repairing the floor and returned to their containers looking like nothing had happened. Charlie and Alpha quickly reattached the table to the floor with a molecular weld that showed no trace of the plasma cut. They had to ensure that no one knew they had accessed the junction box and the servers.

The room was filling with thick acrid smoke as Charlie and Alpha tossed the nanobots, tools and satchels into the deepening pool of gloop that had already eaten down through over a metre of the floor in a wide circle. Charlie and Alpha both signalled that this phase was complete and then placed themselves onto the edge of the hole. They waited until they could see the soup start to eat through the ceiling of the vast server stores below them. They could hear the screams and shouts of security personnel, and engineers, who were hidden inside that pulse shielded area.

Alpha looked at Charlie and nodded, They both sent a signal. “Task complete” and then as one they dropped into the hole and activated two switches. The first switch triggered the internal explosives both of them carried in stomach pouches which blew them to pieces and made  a larger hole through the floor.

They exploded in large orange blooms spraying the remnants of plasticrete and acid into the server storage area. The second trigger had fired the electromagnetic spike that was aimed into this server room. It was a wave of energy that was powerful enough to kill organic life that was within ten metres of its main beam. It was more than powerful enough to completely annihilate the vast memory stores in this room wiping them clean.

Written in 365 Parts: 157: Eradicate Everything

Beta and Delta breathed an almost simultaneous sigh of relief as the second wave of vehicles drew back to a safe distance. The assault from the auto-cannons had been too much for the vehicles. There had been ten vehicles in that wave, they were using magnetic suppression and electromagnetic damping to reduce the impact from the electro-mag cannons the two Dricks had deployed.

The protocol was still to reduce any extraneous loss of life or damage. That would only cause increased attention and would escalate any response. The response from this was already going to be significant. 

The cannons the Dricks had deployed fired targeted beams of electromagnetic energy, which was less damaging than a global pulse of energy but significantly more precise. They were commonly used by the justice and military sections of government. This weaponry caused less lasting damage and was sanctioned for use against civilians. They were highly illegal for non-official usage but that was less of a consideration when one was conducting an all out assault on a building. 

The enemy had tried to use speed and countermeasures to get close enough to overpower and land troops and support units. The second wave was harder to beat back than the first and had also revealed the weak spots on the defence coverage. The Dricks knew that the next wave would be even greater in force and would target that weakness. The next wave would likely succeed. They signalled the command and received the go ahead for the final phase of their part of the operation.

Drick Delta signalled to the watcher that they would not likely survive the next assault and that God would no longer be needed to watch them. It was not part of the mission parameters for them to require a rescue just to hold off support forces for the maximum length of time. 

While the assault team was attempting to inflict as few casualties as possible, the opposing side were not so picky. They waited for confirmation of their response and for approval to move to the final phase. It was a few moments before the response was given and they were requested to hold for as long as possible to give the internal teams time to implement the final phase of their assault.

The Two Dricks began to assemble the molecular explosives. Once triggered the bombs would eradicate everything in a three metre radius. In an instant a globe would be reduced to its components eradicating all traces that would reveal who had conducted the external assault.