08:35 – 13 October, 2187 (Muhaze, Tapi-36)
David Sempre roared with anger. A piercing cry of self-loathing and hatred for those that had betrayed him. The scream echoed through the collapsing building and brought down more debris from the ceiling above.
Sempre’s mind was in such agony that he felt as if it were closing in on itself; as if his brain was imploding with the weight of this new horror. A horror that made the duality between mind and body all too real, all too extreme.
His head was his, but his body was his mother’s.
And though it was the torso of a 60-year-old woman, it was muscular and strong. As if it had been pumped up; inflated. His skin stretched with the ripple of muscle tissue.
He flexed his left arm, then the right – each bicep bulged with a formidable beefiness. The amount of chemicals used to do this must have been enormous.
His limbs had ripped holes through the sleeves of the floral print dress that Mayette Froome had been so fond of wearing; and had still been dressed in, all those years ago when she had been cryogenically frozen.
But why was he like this?
Was it someone’s idea of a sick joke?
Another detonation went off outside.
Looking around, Sempre quickly realised that he wasn’t at TAPCON Towers. He was in the Specialist’s bunker out near the Airfield.
How did he get there?
He tried to piece together his last waking moments, but nothing came.
More muffled explosions went off again, somewhere above him, prompting Sempre to look up at the ceiling. Dust continued to sputter down into the bunker. Some specks floated into his eyes and he blinked to clear his gaze. It was then that he saw the swarm of NITs buzzing in a grotesque huddle of evil, over by the Specialists’ workbench. Sempre took a wary step backwards.
The NITs began to flock towards him, slowly at first, then eagerly as if they were strangely attracted to him. Sensing danger, Sempre raised his arms in defence, but it was no use, and soon several hundred of the tiny metal beasts were upon him, buzzing around his head in a fervour. He frantically tried to swat them away, but his efforts were futile.
But yet, they weren’t attacking him.
In fact, just the opposite.
They were gathering around him as if they wanted to follow him; as if they wanted to go wherever he went. Like they had chosen him as their leader. Their noise was not aggressive or volatile, rather a compliant hum that if translated into words would say: ‘We are at your command – Oh, Great Master’.
Somehow, Sempre sensed this.
He moved a step to his right.
The NITs followed.
He moved back to his left.
The NITs were right there with him.
He swung his arms in circles at his side. The NITs followed his every move; creating a spherical murmuration of nasty mechanical gnats.
Sempre smiled, then said: “NITs… Sempre says: ‘Go to the Specialists’.”
Immediately the deadly probes flew across the room to the two bodies on the floor, then waited for their next command.
Sempre’s grin widened.
Something moved in the rubble to Sempre’s left. One of the Specialist’s lab rats had survived the blast. The way it scuttled amongst the detritus instantly reminded Sempre of his old assistant, Flugg. But thinking about Flugg only made him annoyed.
“Sempre says: ‘Kill the rat’!” he yelped, his mother’s windpipe making him sound like the ‘Wicked Witch of the Earth-based West’.
The NITs swarmed down onto the pathetic creature and, in an instant, its brain was punctured by hundreds of proboscises. It was dead.
“Ha!” exclaimed Sempre. Then remembered that he usually laughed in threes: “Ha, ha, ha!” he corrected.
The NITs returned to their master, and hovered expectantly, waiting for further instructions.
Sempre grinned, again. Wider this time. “Oh, this is genius!” he exclaimed. “What power!”
An overwhelming feeling of omnipotence surged through his veins, and again he roared – this time in pure pleasure. But, on hearing his high-pitched scream, he was reminded again of his transformed body.
The thought disgusted him.
He wanted to tear it off and throw it away into a dark corner.
But then Sempre had a thought. Could his real body be somewhere around the lab? If this was where the Specialists had brought him after the fall of TAPCON, then maybe the rest of him was here too, somewhere in amongst all the mess and tangled wires.
He began to search the lab for the capsule.
There was so much rubble in the lab that, on first glance, it made Sempre think his task would be somewhat difficult. However, his new strength allowed him to work quickly. Objects that would have previously been impossible for him to lift were now easily picked up and put aside.
After ten minutes of this, Sempre had found nothing. He had almost given up hope. He let out a long frustrated sigh that filled the room.
But in the silence that followed, he heard a low beeping noise. It was coming from the far corner of the lab. It got louder as he approached and there, underneath a large sheet of metal, he saw a glint of Actionglass.
He quickly removed the metal and swept away the dust from the surface of the glass. He knew instantly that this was it. It was still plugged in – he could see the white gas from the cooling system circulating inside the pod.
Sempre pushed the remaining bits of junk off of the capsule and found the button at the side that opened the lid. He pressed it, and the lid slid back. The white vapour came out with such force that he was almost knocked over. But then, as it dissipated, he could see his headless body lying there on the plinth, still in his old grey suit. His mother’s head was at his side. Both were connected with wires and sensors, and were obviously still in cryro-animation. The pod beeped a warning and a red light came on. Sempre closed the lid quickly, the side catches fastening automatically as he did so. The light continued to flash and a computer voice was calmly repeating: “Unathourised opening, please wait for security.” He turned towards the Specialists’ bodies, a snarl coming to his lips.
They must have brought me here. Mitchell and Quince. From the rubble of the Towers. But how was I put in the pod?
A hazy memory came to him…
Tamashito was looking at me from outside of Mother’s casket. I remember he looked just like Herra, with his beard. Yes! He must have done it! He must have knocked me out and put me in the pod. Who else was there? And I was cold. So very cold. Then… nothing. A blank. Until now. But what have I become? Why have they done this to me?
He felt a horrific anger surge through his body. It was so strong he felt like his veins would burst; as if his body would simply explode with the pressure.
He roared again, and this time even the NITs seemed to cower at the sheer primacy of his scream. Sempre no longer cared what it sounded like. All he could think of was his revenge.
The Specialists had already paid with their lives, and now it was time that he let Dr. Tamashito, and the rest of the universe, know how he felt about them.
09:04 – 13 October, 2187 (Muhaze, Tapi-36)
Ignacio Phinn was on the box:
‘The ‘Golden Circuit’, as it’s called, is all around us. Some scientists say that it’s a physical impossibility, that it’s a hoax. But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of people taking to social-space media with clips of themselves moving objects and blasting rocks. It seems that everyone has one in their family now. Unknowingly, Mikita Smith seems to have started the craze of the millennium – but she is mysteriously nowhere to be found. Since her much publicised run-in with The Oort Cloud Cult she’s simply vanished. And now her thousands of fans are wondering if she’s actually dead. Further to this report, we have learned that the IFS has today pledged new support for these individuals. The report is coming up next with Harriet Honeste…’
Kané Smith shook his head and pressed the mute button on the remote, then threw the control onto the nearby sofa. He looked at the tab of Nanoloxetin on Polo’s living room table. He looked at it, lovingly.
Just the one, he told himself. That’s all I need, then I’ll stop again.
A junkie’s reasoning. Deep down, Kané knew it was a lie; he knew it wasn’t going to be like that. He’d have the tab, enjoy the hit and then come down from his high. Then he’d need another one, and another, and soon he’d be back in Grafuulen, knocking on darkened doors asking for more pills and running up another massive loan with some shark. But this rational thinking was pushed to the back of his mind, like a twinkling star at the other end of the galaxy, as Kané told himself to take the tab and consider the consequences later.
He picked up the pill…
“What the mighty shizz are you playing at, Kané!?”
Polo came into the front room (new suit, hat and tie) and was stopped dead in her tracks by what she saw.
Kané got up guiltily, and knocked the table over. His stuff flew in every direction: “No, wait, Polo, it’s not what you think, I was just going to -”
But Polo was already over to him and grabbing the Nanoloxetin from the floor before he could finish his sentence.
“Holy draining Herra, Kané, I thought we’d agreed that you were going to stay clean?” She immediately got out her meta-file. “I’m phoning Dr. Rexian right now.”
Polo punched some numbers into her device, all the while watching Kané like an Earth-based hawk. He was still protesting his innocence when Dr. Rexian, the Smith family doctor, came on the line.
“Hello, Dr. Rex? It’s Polo Smith here…. Yes, we’re all well, thanks… No, she’s not dead… On holiday, yeah, that’s right. Listen, Doc, my brother Kané needs some help. Can you see him today?”
Kané shook his head. It seemed like Polo had become his mother recently – though she looked more like his father, in those suits she wore all the time.
“Twelve o’clock? That’s great. Thanks, Doc. He’ll see you then.”
Kané was still shaking his head, but now it was at his own stupidity. “Why did I open my door to you in Grafuulen?”
Polo gave him a look. “You opened it because you secretly wanted my help, that’s why.”
“C’mon, Po. Just let me have that tab. It’s my last one. I swear I’ll stop after that. I’ll have to anyways, I’ve got no money.”
“Well, be that as it may, you still need to see the Doc. Then you need to get a job. Then you need to get some order in your life, some consistency. You really need to try harder, Kané. You really need to work at it. You need to get yourself free from the stuff that’s holding you back in life.”
She held up the tab, then left the room. “I’m putting it somewhere you’ll never find it.”
After a few seconds Polo came back to the living room.
“There. You’re done with them.”
Kané knew that Polo was right, but that didn’t stop him craving the Ns.
“Look, after we go to the doctor’s, we’ll go do something nice together. We know he’s going give you some Dromadone, to relieve the withdrawal, then after that we’ll go see a film. That new Nigel-666 thing. It might take your mind off all of this.”
Kané nodded. “Yeah, sure, Polo. Sounds good. Whatever you want.”
Polo paused, and looked at her cousin. He was a mess. “Look. It’s just you and me now, Kané. Mikita’s gone. Gone for good, I reckon. She’ll get married to Zanthu and that’ll be it. Alien babies, more travelling around the universe -”
“Yeah, you’re right, Po.”
Polo glanced wistfully at her new Comms device – the one Mikita had given her before she left; the one made by Marcie on Plaateux-5. She tried to will it to turn on – to light up with a message from Mikita telling her she was on her way back to Tapi-36. That she’d missed Polo so much, she’d decided to call it off with Zanthu and come home.
Kané saw her looking at the machine. “You miss her, huh?”
Polo nodded, then went over to the shelf, took down the small Comms device and placed it in her suit pocket.
“I’m sure she misses you too, Po. You were… are her best friend, you know.”
Polo smiled at Kané. She was so struck with this rare show of kindness. Then she saw Kané’s eyes dart to the hallway and back again to meet her gaze.
“Oh no, I’m not falling for that,” she said, backing up and standing spread-eagled between him and the doorway.
“Oh, come on, Po. Just let me have it? Please?”
“No way, Kané!” Polo turned quickly and headed for her bedroom.
Kané fumed. He had a good mind to follow her.
He looked at the TV. Harriet Honeste was interviewing a woman with a weird baby, that stared, wide-eyed at the camera – the caption underneath read ‘Baby controls family dog with golden powers.’
Kané grinned. “Hey, Polo? Don’t make me use the GC on you now.”
Polo stuck her head back around the door. “You what? The GC? Don’t make me laugh. You’ve not used that since you burnt down the – sorry, since ‘the incident’.”
What could Kané say? Polo was right. He’d not used the Golden Circuit since he was a boy. He hated it. The things it did. The trouble it made. Not to mention the pain it caused him when he did use it. “Well, I could if I really wanted to.”
Polo shook her head. “Yeah, right.” She disappeared again, down the hall as she continued her put-down: “You’d be about as much good as the bozos you’re watching on TV.”
Kané rolled his eyes, then sat back down on the couch. He felt a twinge of nausea in his stomach – the pangs of withdrawal were beginning. His mind flickered to a rare, dark thought:
He could use physical force to get the drugs off Polo.
He closed his eyes and shook away the notion. What kind of animal would do such a thing – harm someone just to get to his drugs? What would that make him? For all his self-hatred, he couldn’t let himself sink that low. Polo was his cousin, for Herra’s sake. He lay back on the sofa, closed his eyes, and waited for the withdrawal to carry out its vengeful ways.