Blue Roses part 1

 by Blaine L. Winston

            Evolution is a form of decay. In a slow, precise, and unforgiving environment we evolve to survive; adapting to the harsher elements that eventually pave roads towards eternally revolving doors.  Through these doors we are eventually lead to the long tables that seat those who just may shape the next fork in the long road.  People whose deep, lined faces represent labyrinths of age and power.  Hannigan looked around at the décor, expensive, pleasing to the eye. The smallest of comforts are always a necessity to keep a client bound to the good graces of the corporation and as he swept his hair back in a cool, calculated move, he grinned slightly at the bronze nude to his left.  Life sized, laying on a mound near a shallow pool with one breast exposed to the cool waters, her face carelessly gazed at its perpetual reflection.  The rhythmic droning of the expensive loafers slapping the marbled floors and telephones chiming one after the other drowned out the conversations of previous evening conquests, boring and irrelevant, plain and simple. The sputtering of the fountain, the elevator bells and the loudspeaker calling for patrons not yet arrived all laid out a cadence for the day while Kevin Hannigan’s black leather case swung lightly against his sheer black suit.


            His companions Yuan and a young Deckar carried similar sealed briefs, wearing similar colored clothes and sharing the same stone faced expressions, following Kevin down the hallway towards the reception area.  The polished floor reflected their deliberate pace, casting blurred specters rather than shadows.  Kevin had worked with the Deckar plenty of times before, their quantum placement calculation always accurate enough in the past yet he had a strange feeling about this particular meeting. Their alignments and algorithms seemed to be shifting off their markers.  Durant wasn’t a man to just discuss acquisitions without a larger reaping in mind and Kevin knew the alternative would pay far less as well as unpleasant for him and his crew.  Besides, it was a party. He should enjoy and live in that moment, for that moment or at least until a moment opened up for him.


            The Deckar provided intel to anyone for a price.  They were a form of classless societal combine/commune that quarantined each other’s consciousness from external influence in pursuit of the purest data feeds. Their bodies were rigged, no, polluted and transmogrified with so many types of nano-quantex devices and ferro-circuital fluids that their humanity eventually became an optional component, a grounding reminder that their feeds may be pure but their vessels were not.  Hell, most of their order act as quantifiers and are in a perpetual heightened coma as it is.  Not that they were completely helpless either.  Their heightened states when conscious and awake allowed for near proto-human reflexes; the nanoquants making their muscles strain beyond human endurance or solidify their epidermis cells to be closer to Kevlar of old.  These options burned a lot of fuel and were last resorts although without these options, they could still hold their own.


            The info Kevin purchased was mainly information about Durant’s proto-human sentries; the models, the serial numbers, the OS builds, even which models were hidden amongst board members, party-goers and random staffers.  As always, the accuracy was within a thousandth of a percentage as the feed showed nearly sixty sentries in charade.  Most high-end gear could only discern 20 at most. His glasses scanned party-goers who crossed his vantage points as he simultaneously watched the feeds in separate windows from the Deckar and Yuan on his side of the glasses.  They covered the flanks as Kevin focused on the core. Standard procedure for their squad. Suddenly, Yuan’s feed gained some interference, a small nuisance nonetheless yet he could still calculate a clear route if the original schematics were indeed scoured with legit data.  Yuan’s feed was dimming further and when Kevin motioned for a status report, scattered text came back in reply. "Damn." Kevin muttered lightly as The Deckar began a route towards Yuan’s sector while Kevin proceeded towards the receptionist’s desk. 


Chatter.  Ops detecting a suspicious occupant. Code yellow activated.  Had they been made?  These ID chips were beyond flawless and the invitations were legitimate.  Durant's money may be good but it still wasn't enough to provide him this early of a detection. Something didn’t quite add up. Kevin’s stomach began to tighten, nerves shooting that familiar feeling that things weren’t necessarily as tight and concise as they were made to believe.


            The receptionist met him with a glittery mouth full of blindingly white, perfectly placed teeth.  Her eyes were in her auto-op mode, an increasingly standard subset that can be attached through a NodePort to ensure the utmost in productivity.  "Mister Hannigan, we've been expecting you.  Please follow me and I will deliver you to the party." She spoke without blinking or releasing that sliced open grin.  Hannigan moved towards the elevator, his feed from Yuan dark. The Deckar's report indicated no intrusions to their own subnetwork and that he had a fix on her.  Whatever was blanking her communication was most likely watching them closer than Kevin preferred.


            The silvery doors opened abruptly showcasing a carriage nearly as lavish as the reception room. Kevin made a kerchief appear and wiped at his brow mockingly; it had been quite some time since he had the need for pores, let alone a kerchief. Pulling his NodePort from his coat he began to half read the news as the conditions with Yuan's feed began to restore. "Sorry K, some type of static burst nearby, vid feeds incoming." She was on her point, ready. Kevin could make out her wiry frame in the reflections of the panel glass. He scanned the news some more finding nothing of interest; Murder in the Tanzania Provence, Canada has finally invaded Scotland, and the cure for Jaundice-4 has a promising development though liver cell generation.  J-4 had killed Kat, his parents and countless others.  The epidemic spread then slowed after twenty or so years, just enough to lower the world’s population by fifty-eight percent.  Kat was not ready for a world as austere.


The code yellow was lifted and his own NodePort had enough to keep conditions green for a good twenty-five minutes, just in case.  The parity links installed allowed short burst digital communications that emulated the wireless mesh security hashes. Risky with all the scanners probing the area but a job’s a job and Kevin's own hunch was slightly confirmed; there is an mole nearby and it needed flushing.


"Deckar, verify impostor injection timer on my mark. Go."


"Twenty-three minutes forty two seconds ago at mark Kevin, impostor feeds are no longing running. Yuan, confirm." His voice sounding ethereal in the subnet; an omnipotent, murky voice in an electric sea.


"Confirmed. K, I think I have a trace.  On the move." Yuan didn't care for adding a filter, she ran along a razors edge without getting cut far and didn't have time for games.  Kevin proceeded to the marker. "I am picking up too much static on my short-com." Yuan said, "Deckar see if you can give me a little bump."

Kevin slipped his NodePort away as the doors opened to a sharply lit room with jadite accents, the smells of chaffed foods, liquor and prestige.  He pressed on and smiled at the party greeter.  Her hair-do of the moment was done up in a faux anti-gravity fashion with distraction highlights.  His smile dimmed and he spoke slightly though his teeth.

"Kevin Hannigan from Malcolm Dynamics to meet with Mr. Durant."

Kevin’s could not see any modifications other than beautification enhancements and a comlink that was older than her. "Of course Mister Hannigan, we are expecting you." His smile widened as she presented him with a slim badge card. He nodded at her, slipped his own hashes into her comlink while his fingers slightly touched hers as he took the badge. He presented his badge to her (?) as the grunts near the board room door stood stoic, like two poorly dressed mannequins. "Yuan, take a peek at the greeter, see if there is anything out of line."


            Yuan’s eyes took on the familiar milky hue as her modified NanoPort scanned the databases.  Even after all these years Kevin still felt uneasy seeing it in action as he unconsciously stroked his own port.  The transfer rates and nearly unlimited storage potential into the human brain were perfected thirty years before Kevin was born to be just another paver living alongside the cobbled road of man.  With every thought, memory, and idea encrypted, any secret you may wish to keep could be held tightly and securely.  It still left room for clever mind hacks to try and fleece them out of their hashes with the usual virtual scams, but modded rigs left the mind open to attack and the thieves were always listening.


            Space exploration was not what it was wished to be. With all the advances in human evolution even after the chaos rang thunderous, travel to distant stars was still a dream.  There are the colonists of Mars who refused to go back to Earth, the spacers that mine the solar system and the corps that own their ships.  They have their own language and laws, lines to be drawn, order to be maintained. Mars may be wild but the spacers were the authority even after a faster than light experiment disintegrated nearly half their flotilla. Though they are now thinner in number and forbidden from conducting any more theoretical experiments, they were still an impressive private navy.  


            Kevin walked through the thick glass doors and noticed the gathering of powerful men seeming small to him. The party was the normal affair; boasting, bragging, favor seeking.  The closer he walked towards them the more Kevin began to see them as one would imagine an army of insignificant ants.  The boardroom blinds were slightly open, slicing the room from the party, enough for Kevin to get a fast head count.  "Yuan, I have a read on a few sentries in the mix. Sitrep on the mole?" Her reply was sent through encrypted text, _FLUSHING_MOLE_HOLE_FIREWALLED_AI_GUARD_BLOCKING_. "Deckar help her out, get rid of it and get ready."


            Yuan cloaked herself and moved sleekly through the halls. The mole’s signal was muted but the data threads were fresh enough on the mesh for her to seem where it was.  The AI was not tough enough, she already knew what it was and had the arsenal to take it out fast and silent.  The Deckar gave her the amplification she wanted and glided towards a small office, seeing the mole.  They were a nuisance but she admired the craft of these devices.  They contained sub route scanning protocol that wouldn't be detected from a Deckar breech and could unleash a flurry of attacks in seconds to an unsuspecting NanoPort.  This model had a cloak of its own, an expensive one but it left the mole vulnerable while active.  She sliced into it with her NanoProbe sending a digital lightning barrage throughout the virtual environment killing the unsuspecting AI instantly though she had wished for a little more VR combat she could have as a keepsake.  "Flushed it, K. On the move." 


            Kevin waved his badge to at the security watching the boardroom door and they ushered him in.  No one rose to greet him and the dour look on the group seemingly had set the tone of the meeting.  The three of them sat at their seemingly designated stops at the board table and set their briefcases in front of them.

"Gentlemen, I am Kevin Hannigan from Malcolm Dynamic.  Now before you start with your disagreements and scoff at my visit I would like to inform you this is not a negotiation.  What my colleagues and I are here to do is relay a message."

The grunts in the room readied their weapons as the board members remained silent. Once the sentries with the briefcases switched to high alert, Hannigan swore he could hear the circuit clicks.  Within moments Durant himself stood up and pounded his fist on the desk.

"You sons of bitches come here and threaten me in my own building?!  Do you fucking morons know that I am an army, that I supply most of the weapons to the nation of Indistani?  I am a god in this world of lepers and non-believers, heathens all of ya.  Malcolm? He can have a counter offer. You fucks? You can fucking die and I’ll send him your bits. Waste ‘em." Face flushed, Kevin could hear his old heart trying to push that jelly-like blood though his arteries. Kevin smiled broadly and flung his case into the air.  A static burst replaced the cigarette smoke with ozone as his hands seemingly materialized his .50 caliber Hannimoto and short pulse SMG with tactical node burst capabilities.


            The sentries’ cases had flung open generating a light pulse shield.  Hannigan's initial volley fire dissipated as they tried to pass through.  He lunged back and sprayed the security men in bad suits with the SMG. They were at least human and died easy enough.  The alert went from yellow to green, still 25 minutes to do this right.  He dove towards the side tables and grabbed some slight cover. He initiated his own alert and braced for them to arrive.  Durant was already gone, in some safe room, watching him as the proto humans showed their full value.  They were fast, and were close to him before he could think of finding safety.  Hannigan fired the pistol at the steam pipe above him. Thanks to the Deckar blueprints, he had a layout of the whole building’s service grid. The roar from the damaged pipe was deafening and scalded one of the sentries, his proto flesh melting into a thin slime about its chromium head.  He fired again, separating its head from its body.  The remaining two were now in a combat stance that truly made them look inhuman with their limbs unnaturally poised. As they moved in for the attack, Kevin noticed his timer losing minutes. Durant was ready after all.


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