Anvil. Part 4.

Shi-Cho has worked spec ops for many years. His body has been wounded, trashed and rebuilt so many times he almost forgets which parts are human and which are cybernetic. His left eye is biosynthetic, but his right is original. He prefers the artificial one. After this job he will have the human eye replaced—a better combination, that way.

His plasma carbine is aimed directly at a tall, muscular man; probably a synthetic, based on the shell with the plassteel cap protruding from his back. Around him are the detritus of the surfers, the underscum that frequent the waveruins below the hovering city. Shi-Cho’s matt-black flexiplas full body armour insulates him from all types of toxins, but he still avoids touching anything. The sooner he’s out of here the better, then on to the next job. The life of a mercenary is never boring.

Shi-Cho’s amplified speech grinds like gravel under tyres. He lost his voice box a few months back and he’s still breaking in the new one. “All right,” he says. “You know the drill. Weapons on the ground. Hands on the back of your heads. No sudden movements.”

The old woman in the body armour still has her pumpgun raised. The synthetic is standing there, placidly. Routine scans show nothing out of the ordinary—just a baby carrier, it seems. Shin-Cho sighs. “You know, when you’re searching for someone, it’s not a good idea to announce it openly, surfer marketplace or not. Amateurs.” He smiles. “Last warning—weapons grounded and hands behind heads.”

* * *

Chun elbows the Anvil as she sights the speaker, shadowed amongst the stalls. “No multiple choice,” she whispers.

Violet hugs her teddy in the little capsule-like womb. From up here she can see nearly everything: the back of the Anvil’s head (is this man really her mother?), the dim glowglobes floating overhead, the hundreds of stalls dotting the floor into the distance, the occasional ray of sunlight through the cracks in the building’s skin; the men dressed in black and the pretty red-light beams in the air, all directed at the Anvil. She tilts her head, curious.

The Anvil registers twenty men, all their locations, calculates reaction times and course and vectors of their potential movements. Her megajoule Microwave Emitters go live, rising from her hidden forearm compartments as she raises her arms to respond.

* * *

Shin-Cho swears. The synthetic just lit up like a Christmas tree—subdermal armaments, concussion shielding, neural enhancers and active/passive retrograde defensives. He fires at the old woman as his troops light up the synthetic, which he knows now is a maxi-class armature. And knowing that, he realises this firefight won’t last long.

* * *

The Anvil moves as Granny Chun drops to the ground and fires. The air around them fills with plasma flechette rounds, but the Anvil is already gone.

* * *

Shin-Cho rolls as the MWE blast fries a line of stalls to his left, then to his right. He sees two of his men burning, limbs flailing, screams registering in his earpieces. The armature is on him in less than a second, its speed phenomenal. He manages to squeeze off two plasma rounds. One glances off the armature’s leg, but its fist connects with Shin-Cho’s helmet and he’s sent flying nearly ten metres into the building wall, which bursts like shredded ricemeal and sends him dropping down, down, down, into the perilous surf below.

* * *

Granny Cho rolls behind a stall, pumping ion shells into whatever she can see. A black armoured chest plate explodes and the merc collapses like a string-less marionette. Another of Chun’s shots takes off another’s arm. “Of course, I love this gun,” she says, cackling with glee.

Her leg is pulsing a thick stream of blood from a plasma round that found it’s mark, but her adrenalin is rushing and her bloodlust is up. “Just like the good old days,” she cries, running and blasting another black-suited merc in the chest.

* * *

The Anvil moves so quickly it’s like the troops are in slow motion. Her MWEs fry bodies and brains to the left and right. Her HUD shows predicted movements and she lays suppressing fire in anticipation. Plasma shells play light trails across the room and old clothes, toys, ancient electronics, crystals, dinnerware and meat products are exploding into fragments and dust that fill the air. A few shells find their mark in her chest, right arm and right leg, but she manages to keep Violet protected at her rear.

Fifteen men are down. Granny Chun has taken out another four.

The last has broken ranks and is fleeing for the far wall, where a great gash in the building’s outer shell provides a convenient exit. The Anvil’s MWEs have reached max temp and shut down to prevent overloading. She reaches for a steel dinner plate sitting on a broken kiosk next to her. The merc is twenty metres away. She aims (precursive tracking arrays ensure there is no chance of missing) and throws.

The dinner plate slices through the merc’s neck from the rear. It doesn’t quite take his helmeted head off; he slows to a crawl, stands still for a moment and then drops to his knees, where he stays, like a petrified silhouette.

Violet is laughing and giggling. The running, jumping and general destruction has her very excited. The various ruined bodies and torrents of blood are hidden by the robust dust clouds choking the air, making the scene appear fantastical.

“All Clear?” calls Chun from somewhere further back.

“Clear,” says the Anvil. She retracts her still-warm MWEs into their forearm compartments. She turns her chiselled male head back to see Violet in the cockpit. The Anvil notes her masculine jawline and cheek bones reflected in the glass. What a nice-looking guy she is. Must have paid extra for that. “You okay, Violet?”

Violet goes shy and sucks her thumb.

Chun hobbles over, applying a halo-patch to the bloody hole in her leg. “Of course, that’s going to scar,” she says, smiling painfully. She claps the Anvil on the shoulder. “Good work. No multiple choice, after all.”

The Anvil wipes her brow, pushes her medium cut male hair back into place. Internally, adreno-stim healers and fibre refabs are repairing any damage. Clothing is reconstituted where bullets have shredded or torn fabric. “So, who were they?”

Chun grimaces as she presses the halo-patch firmly into place. “Of course, your memory’s still up the crapper. Those ‘amateurs’ were sent by the other person looking for Violet.”

“And who would that be?”

“Your husband, you idiot.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

 

Anvil. Part 3.

The little girl flinches, stepping back and hugging the teddy bear and Granny Chun’s leg. “Well what did you expect?” says the old woman. “You come here looking like some badass, muscle-head man and expect your daughter to recognise you?”

The Anvil steps back, shakes her head. Chun is right. What prompted her to make such an extreme change? Armatures come in female forms. Why take on a male version?

“Of course. I bet you’re thinking ‘why didn’t I take a female form?’” says Chun, rolling her eyes. “You’re just as stupid now as you were then.” The Anvil is taken aback—she still has no memory of who she was before, other than that she was the mother of Violet. She pops another two memjets for good measure.

“You keep popping those pills and who knows how your synapses are going to resculpt,” says Chun, grabbing the packet from the Anvil’s hand. She’s fast for a wizened, cranky old crone. “You’ll probably end up brain damaged, if you’re not already.”

“I need those,” says the Anvil, reaching.

Chun holds them back and wags her finger sternly. “Of course, you do. But better to see how much of your recall comes back naturally, rather than pushing your limits with memjet.”

The Anvil regards the old woman suspiciously. “And just what makes you an expert on Armature rebirths?”

Chun smiles slyly. “Who do you think recommended the upgrade?” She places the box of pills in her pocket. “Of course, I never said use a male version. What, did you think having a dick would make you tougher? Now that’s just sad.” Violet giggles, while still clinging and hiding behind Granny Chun’s lower leg.

“I need to get my daughter out of here,” says the Anvil. Her expressionless masculine face belies any concern. She’s not sure how she feels, yet. Maybe that, too, will come back in time.

Chun laughs. “Of course, you do. And where were you planning on taking her? You don’t even know why you’re here.”

The Anvil looks perturbed. The old crone has a point. “What would you suggest?”

Chun picks up Violet and hangs her on her hip. The girl chews her teddy’s ear (already dog- eared, no doubt her go-to in times of stress). “I’ll accompany you.” Chun goes behind the blanket dividing the room. The Anvil can see her infrared silhouette pulling gear from a cupboard. Violet is a multicoloured vision flicking her legs back and forth as she sits on the bed where Chun deposited her.

A few minutes later Chun emerges with full flexiplas body armour, ion ammo belts for her pumpgun and a wicked looking, six-inch NESblade in a scabbard on her right boot. “Of course, I’m prepared.”

“Where did you get all of that?” says the Anvil.

“From you, idiot. Before you rebirthed.”

The Anvil scratches her head. As insulting as this old witch is, her presence is reassuring. Or maybe that’s just the way the Anvil’s new brain thinks about someone before smashing them.

Violet exits wearing a sleeveless flak jacket. “Sorry, sweetie,” says Chun, kneeling to check the fit. “I don’t have anything else in your size. We missed the kid’s battledress Christmas specials.”

Chun stands and faces the Anvil. “Have you fully assimilated the guide yet?”

“I think so.” The answer is more hopeful than the Anvil would like.

More eye rolling from Chun. “If we get in a jam I don’t want a multiple choice from you when I’m asking for a mega-joule microwave emitter.” The Anvil smiles, but deep down she’s feeling a level of anxiety she isn’t used to (or is she—was she anxious before? Damn her useless memory).

The Anvil kneels next to Violet. “I have a compartment for you, Violet, in my back. It’ll keep you safer than that jacket.” The area of the Anvil’s back from splenius capitis to latissimus dorsi, opens like a multi-segmented flower. The portions lengthen fluidly and join to form an armoured capsule that extends from the rear of the Anvil’s torso. At the top, a clear plassteel cover has formed where Violet’s head will be, so she can see. Violet looks to Granny Chun for guidance. “It’s okay, sweetie,” says Chun. “It may look like a stupid male, but it is, in fact, your stupid mother.”

The tiny girl, gripping her teddy tightly, climbs cautiously into the compartment, which seals around her. At first, she is alarmed, but once the Anvil stands she calms and starts to laugh at the wonderful ride. It’s like she’s being permanently piggybacked in a super-strong baby carrier.

Chun and the Anvil step out of the crude shack onto the concourse. The stalls are empty, without movement. The familiar sights and sounds and smells have vacated like the passing of a puissant hallucinogen. A lone, shadowed figure stands not far from the pair, nestled between a throng of wicker baskets and laminated jackets.

“You’re not going anywhere,” it says in an amplified voice fit to grind calcium from bone shards. In response about twenty red targeting optics appear on the Anvil’s chest, laser lines knifing back to covered snipers positioned around the complex.

“Of course, we beg to disagree,” says Chun, cocking her pumpgun.

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Anvil. A short series. Part 2.

The bubble cab drops quickly. Through the transparent plastiglass roof the Anvil can see the city’s bottom, a mishmash of giant tubes, pipes, grav generators and spotlights. The ocean below rises to meet the taxi, a cacophonous tundra where waves crash against the broken skeletons of old skyscrapers half buried in the depths, the cracked and rusted torsos of ancient swimmers frozen in time.

The rain starts, drumming a familiar beat on the cab’s glistening, rounded surfaces. Lower and lower it goes, until the vacant sides of the half-submersed buildings come starkly into focus, all broken windows and crusted metal facades. The cab flits between the old structures, tracing an invisible path through the pounding rain and surf until it arrives at a globe-topped building, as cracked and worn as the others. “You have arrived at your destination,” says the taxi, demurely. The door slides up and a metal gangplank telescopes to the nearest opening, a gaping hole where the building’s outer veneer has crumbled away, exposing rusting and pitted steel beams.

The Anvil climbs out, the rain speckling his armoured hide as he clears the gangplank and steps into the edifice. “Have a nice day,” says the cab as it accelerates up and away. He places another two memjets on his tongue and swallows. Memories pour in, again. He remembers the little girl, but also this place—he has visited here in the recent past.

Before his vision (displayed in infra-red and ultra violet spectrums) he sees a busy market place, with stalls and stores constructed of plastic and metal detritus, covering almost every square foot of this building’s floor. Hovering glowglobes cast muted light and shadows. Everywhere people swarm: bargaining, buying, selling, trading. There are food stores, gun stores, places selling parts for water purifiers, street hawkers selling time keepers and illegal palmchips, Verso and Damage (the latest designer drugs). Buskers, poets and whores ply their trade between stalls, and skinny children run rampant through the crowds, unsupervised. There are no police here, but everything is fairly orderly. Most are dressed in little more than rags; their lean, dirty and despondent faces turn towards him in fear, and the place quietens.

The Anvil moves through the crowd. Once the onlookers realise he isn’t a cop the volume returns, and people are back to business. He checks his internal guide, works out how to display a hologram. At a Thai food vendor he shows the proprietor a holo of the address and the girl’s face. The man tosses vegetables in a skillet over a gas flame, checks the image briefly, and points to a shanty on the edge of the floor. The Anvil approaches the rude metal construction and knocks on a corrugated iron door.

A pumpgun barrel extends from a gap in the steel, aimed at his chest. “What you want?” says a female voice, old and grizzled.

“I’m here for the girl,” says the Anvil, the holo appearing above his extended palm.

“What’s the code?”

He searches his memory. The code is there, having filtered back at the same time as the memories of this market floor. “Rose Alpha Zen.”

The sliding of a bolt. The door scrapes aside. A wiry, weary-faced woman, with missing teeth and a permanent scowl, holding a pumpgun in one hand and the door handle in the other. He doubts the woman could stop him, even if he didn’t have the code.

The wizened hag lowers the weapon, checks around to see who’s watching, and pulls him into the shanty. “You couldn’t be any more conspicuous?” she says grouchily.

It’s a single room, with a small table, coolant box, gas stove and blanket separating this area from the bedding. A hovering glowglobe dimly illuminates the area. The Anvil’s muscular bulk takes up half the room. “I assume that’s your new form,” says the old woman. “I guess you knew what you were in for.”

The old girl’s name coalesces into memory. “You’re Granny Chun,” he says.

She looks at him like he’s addled. “Of course I am, you idiot.”

He taps his head. “Recall transfer issues from the rebirth.”

Granny Chun rolls her eyes. “Of course there were.” She moves to the blanket and pulls it aside, her voice and features softening. “You can come out, little one, it’s all right.”

A tiny blonde girl steps into the glowglobe light, carrying a worn teddy bear. She cranes her neck up as she takes in the Anvil’s size. “Who are you?” she says, a slight tremor in her voice.

The clouds in his memory are clearing. The shapes and forms on the periphery of his thoughts take on solidity. He knows who the girl is. He also realises who he is. He is not a ‘he’ at all.

“Violet,” says the Anvil. “It’s me. It’s mummy.”

To be continued…

Missed earlier instalments? Click here.

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Anvil. A short, unplanned series. Part 1.

He awakens to a miasma of colour, of senses and routines flashing incandescently in his mind, before his eyes, of images and words and confusion and cacophony, as the world comes into focus.

Through the informational arrays filling his vision, to the drone of his internals and the pump of his synthetic heart, the glow of body heat beyond the containment walls and the greasy smell of human perspiration elsewhere in the room—all his senses are buzzing like a mescaline high. When he holds up his hand he registers the tracery of titanium bones and plasti-synth muscles; the blood that pumps through his arterial corridors is not plasma and haemoglobin, but viscous and oil-like synthetic blood. He is not himself.

The man in white across the room regards a hologram floating before his eyes. “You’re awake,” he says; his voice is a dry riverbed, cracked and drained of life. “Good.” The radiant display disappears. He forms a toothy grin, more grimace than smile. “The best Anvil available, just like you wanted. Newest L-series armature: subdermal mesh and thermal weaponry, protein revitalisers, endura core, extra-high spectrum sensates, reformative layering. It’s all there in the guide, it should be registering in your forebrain processor, now.” The man in white winks, as if the Anvil is in on some subtle joke. “The best money can buy.”

The Anvil rises from the steel bed and places his feet on the floor. The metal is cold, the pressure registered in his artificial toes and ankle joints is nominal and signals his leg musculature to adopt a relaxed gait. “Where am I?” he says. His voice is dark, warm and smooth. Like chocolate or a good liqueur. “Who am I?”

The Doctor frowns, removes a scope-like device from his breast pocket and places it against the Anvil’s eye. It glows briefly, fireflies flicker. “Odd,” he says. “Memory loss is not common on rebirths.” He walks to a cabinet, removes a fist-sized plastic box and returns. “Take two of these Memjets every hour for the next two days. They’ll help stimulate your neural passages and rebuild your memory from your base drive. If your memory doesn’t return, come back and see me.”

The man in white smiles mirthlessly, claps the Anvil on the back. “Time for you to go. I’ve got others to rebirth.” He points to the door. The Anvil walks slowly across the room, adjusting to his lope; he reaches the doorway and realises he is naked.

“You can constitute clothing automatically, as needed to accommodate your circumstances,” says the Doctor, as if reading his thoughts. “Check the guide.” As if by magic, a blue shirt, black jeans and leather boots weave themselves from nothing, a facade for the Anvil’s muscular frame.

* * *

Outside the clinic, the world is shiny, phosphorescent and neon-coated. It is a sunny day, although the hazy grey and overcast clouds punctuating the blue above indicate possible rain later.

Initially, he registers the gamut of people as ghostly, skeletal afterimages, until his senses adjust and the ‘guide’ is subsumed into his consciousness. Bodies take shape, becoming smartly-dressed men and women in motion.

Massive multi-storey spires hover in the air, hundreds of metres above the tumultuous watery plains below. There are no roads–multiple glowing cylinders connect each structure and through each the inhabitants swarm like ungracious ants, going about their black, grey and blue-suited business. Each floating building is connected to one another by multiple transtubes like tethers. Lines of flying vehicles fill the airspace in between, and the glow of skyscraper-high advertisements penetrate every sense.

The Anvil makes his way to the wall of the glowing linktube, avoiding the fertile crush of bodies. Through the near-transparent wall he sees the patina of airborne traffic carpeting the spaces between multi-storey colossi: transparent bubble vehicles, stubby-winged aircars, floating police transports.

He notes there is a small crystal chip embedded in his palm. A quick scan of pedestrians around him indicates this is standard. The Anvil sees a man hailing a taxi to the linktube by raising his chipped palm.

Hundreds of feet below an aged boat, seemingly crafted from junk, is capsized by a wave—scores of tiny people spill into the surf and struggle fruitlessly like ants in a toilet before being sucked below. No one else pays heed. The Anvil watches the distant struggle, notes the lack of concern around him. Apparently, this is commonplace. Life is cheap, here. Or perhaps those who float above place little value on those who float below.

He pops two Memjet pills. They hit his synapses almost immediately, registering as a sharp pain in his skull and making him wince. An image: a child, a girl with silky blonde hair clutching a teddy bear, no older than five. She means something to him. An address flashes up. A clue? Somewhere to start. The Anvil raises his palm and waits briefly.

A flying taxi arrives, a glistening sphere with motion-filled ads playing over its surface, and hovers beside the tube. A hole opens in the cylinder wall, transmetal flowing like mercury. The Anvil enters the cab and sits. There are two rows of seats facing each other, tinted windows on each side, no driver—fully automated. “Take me to this address,” he says. His chip is scanned, the address and fare debit registering automatically.

“Please be aware you have asked me to take you to a sub-level,” says the taxi’s eloquent sampled voice. “Sub-levels are considered dangerous and are unsupported. Once you exit me you are responsible for your own well-being.”

“That’s fine,” says the Anvil. “Take me down.”

To be continued…

What is ANVIL?

ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.

Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

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