Meta-Noemics

Pete Ingham

Meta-Noemics

Pete Ingham

Copyright © Peter Ingham 2011

Published at Indie Aisle

To my family and friends.

Contents

Preface

Medium of Exchange

More Human than Human

Economical Cross-Pollinisation

Digital Bath

Autoscopy

MachiNation

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 5

Preface

Meta-

(Combining form)

1. Denoting a change of position or condition

- Metamorphosis

- Metathesis

2. Denoting position behind, after, or beyond

( Merriam Webster)

Noemics

1. The science of the understanding; intellectual science (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary.)

Nobody ever reads these—correction, I never read these, or skim over them at best, and now, writing one it feels somewhat ironic. The thought of filling two pages with „Lorem Ipsum‟ filler text did cross my mind, but I reminded myself that not everyone might be as ungrateful. In penance, I went back to some of my favourite books and read the pages, and I must say, there was some interesting stuff in there. Anyway...

The usage of „Meta-Noemics‟ in relation to the subject matter in this collection of science fiction shorts, while not always the central theme, is certainly a dynamic that niggles under the surface. So the title, not for the sake of having something that, for lack of a better word, sounded

„pretty‟, actually relates to the themes contained within these e-pages.

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 6

The purpose behind writing the book was primarily for the fun that goes with working on a piece of prose, generating ideas, observing them as they come to fruition and finally, editing and reediting the piece.

Also, because I have mental floodgate in place that breaks whenever I start to write short fiction, this being due to fact that I‟ve always had a difficult time in trimming an idea and story down that can be digested in several thousand words. For some reason my brain works like a mad dog left off a leash, always attempting break out of its cage and go on some huge adventure.

Meta-Noemics was an attempt to improve on certain factors in my work, but also to create several pieces in a sub-genre that I rarely see out on the bookshelves. The sub-genre to science fiction being predominantly „Cyberpunk‟, though some of the stories contained in here drift between more traditional sci-fi and fiction that is more contemporary.

Though there may be some discrepancy with „time‟ they still align in some way to the central thematic explained above which was always going to be a driving point in the ethos of each story.

The ideas for each of the stories came from a myriad of sources, some by the thought of how

„near future‟ technology might be utilised, how AI affects a subjects‟ notion of self and how our morals can become numbed by exposure to manmade elements.

Several different subjects are tackled, though it is ultimately up to the reader how these are interpreted, and what message, if any, they take from it. Primarily, I wanted to create a piece of writing that was entertaining, the naval gazing aspects included, more of a commentary on characters‟ motivations throughout them.

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 7

There were various pitfalls in the writing process, writers block is the usual problem however as mentioned above, it was difficult to try and restrain what I was attempting to write and not let it grow out of control like a vicious „mind weed‟.

Research influenced utilisation of technology in the work, but there is also aspects of artistic licensing throughout and consists of mostly of guesswork in the ways that certain technologies and advancements might be handled and disseminated.

There were also influences from current affairs work, advertising in particular and the use of the online medium for distributing advertisements and creating appeal and buzz in their work.

Television also, in particular regards to their impressions of the market and how they are struggling, to some degree, to „pull in‟ their respective demographics.

Most, if not all of the research was undertaken online, and without it, I feel that the genesis of ideas would have been stunted. This would have occurred because of my limited knowledge on subjects like nanotechnology and even more trivial understanding of subjects like property.

There were too many sites to name unfortunately, but I would like to extend my thanks to sites such as Wikipedia, TVTropes, FutureForAll and CyberpunkReview, which were all instrumental in the writing process. I also must thank family and friends for their input and thoughts, which I am very appreciative of. There, I managed to roll everything in there with relative ease, and if you made it this far, I‟m impressed and also grateful.

That‟s about it.

Thanks.

Pete Ingham

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 8

Medium of Exchange

He awoke to the sound of a squawking handheld, knocked over a cheap bottle of whiskey, kick like a disgruntled mule, dregs spilling on the floor.

“Yeah?” He answered, checked the caller ID.

“Get dressed Mr Finn, your services are required.”

“You got the wrong number pal.” He chucked the handheld back on the bedside table, clinked against a battered lamp.

The phone didn‟t let up, having an attention tantrum, illuminated blue stuttering, throwing light to the far reaches of the cramped bedroom. Denying the call, he switched it off, pulling the sheet back over his head.

Several minutes passed, body on the cusp of sleep once more, a shuffle of metal from the hallway stole respite away, jolt sent through his heart, hand going for the gun in the drawer. He crept over to the door, drawing it open with the barrel of the berretta, sights trained on the entrance, waiting for them to enter, determined not to be swayed by a show of force.

It gave way seconds later, splutter of sparks as the lock fell to the floor with a resounding clunk. A man in a finely tailored suit entered, two friends with him, the kind of friends that needed to turn sideways to enter a door.

“First the wrong number and now the wrong address, not your day.” Gun focused between the intruders temple.

“It certainly isn‟t Mr Finn.” His friends reaching into their suits, fabric so tight against their skin it was almost like Lycra.

“You should go.”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 9

“I‟m afraid I cannot, not until I‟ve spoken to you.”

The gun wavered in his hand, tempted to just unload the barrel, only way he was gonna get any sleep tonight.

Finn thumbed the hammer, bringing it back up and flicking the safety on. Headed back to the bedroom, motioning for them to follow, grabbing a robe off the wall and throwing it on, didn‟t feel like talking in just his shorts, could get chilly.

Anchoring himself on the corner of the bed, hand reaching in the dark for the bottle he‟d knocked over, clutching at air until the guy flicked the light on.

He drained it, burnt the back of his throat, but jumpstarted his internal clock.

“What does the SKB want from me then? Haven‟t been on their books for years.”

“There has been an incident.” The man began; eyes roving round the room in indifference, like appraising an item of indeterminable value

“That‟s what you boys are for; they weren‟t so keen on outsourcing when I was there.”

“No.” He said, finger jabbing a bobble head doll on a desk, little object shivering dust as it rocked back and forth. “But the Board took a vote, apparently my expertise does not extend as far as yours once did.”

Finn chuckled, jabbing a cigarette between the creases of his upturned lips, “That‟s what they get for bringin‟ them in from overseas; don‟t know the lay of the land.”

“Quite.”

“Why‟d the Board make the decision for this, why not the old man?”

“Mr Yosuro is unfortunately... not in a position to make decisions.”

Finn pulled the lighter away from his smoke, eyebrow raised.

“He‟s dead, Mr Finn.”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 10

“I got that. So what, the board makin‟ you go round to ex-employees and tell‟em?”

“We‟re trying to keep it quiet, and like you said, I‟m not... as familiar to this city as I would have hoped. So we require your services.”

“I‟m not that guy anymore.”

“You are private, clients pay you to do a job for them, think of this as nothing more.”

“No.” He dropped the cigarette into the whisky bottle, hissed when it found a recess of liquid. “I‟m not that guy for the SKB, and that means I‟m not the guy for you.”

“I‟m afraid Mr Finn, as you well know,” Finger gathering grime as it traced along a dresser,

“We never ask. Do the job, make some easy money, hire a maid.”

“Sounds like you‟re tellin‟.”

“I‟m simply helping you come to a prompt decision.”

He stepped out into the street, golden neon sign above projected through a distorted lens on the puddles below, must have been raining while he was sleeping. Pulling his jacket closer as a strong gust of wind funnelled in from the side street he felt the butt of the berretta jab into his rib, he was thankful for the protection, or at least, the illusion of it.

One of the heavies held the door of the sedan open, looking more than capable of ripping the hinge off and coldcocking him if he didn‟t jump in double-time. Inside, shivering as his body adjusted to the sauna-like conditions of the vehicle, he lit up.

“When‟d he die?” Finn started, the man opposite prodded one of the electric windows down on his side, allowing the smoke to escape.

“Couple of hours ago.”

“You boy‟s work fast.”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 11

“Indeed. We received a call from the proprietor of the Lilac Dream—”

“He still into dead-heads then?” Finn nodded, scribbling notes onto an electronic notepad, one part of the screen searching for the GPS coordinates.

“He was, Mr Finn, and as it turned out, it was the death of him.”

“You don‟t shit where you sleep.”

“Indeed. As I was saying, we received a call from a Mr Gant saying that he has found Yosuro-sama dead, in one of the rooms, appearing to have been throttled by one of the androids.”

Finn pulled the cig from his mouth as if it had just set it on fire, “Killed by one of them?

Bullshit.”

“It certainly wasn‟t... „bullshit‟ Mr Finn, I have seen it myself.”

“Since when do dead-heads learn a trick like that?”

He shook his head, “Trust me Mr Finn— they do—and it did.”

“So you‟re still lookin‟ for it, what about the tracer?”

“They were not included on installation.”

Finn opened his own window, flicked the butt out, “Not your day is it?”

“It is not, that is why we wish for you to take over, find the model, and pull the plug.”

The rough squelch as tires pulled up by a curb, a breath of air escaping as one of the heavies opened the door, the crunch of sodden gravel underfoot as he stared at the back of the building.

The man followed suit, tightening the black overcoat he wore over his outfit, Finn saw the wink of a handgun, a light kiss from ashen moonlight.

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 12

He swept his hand in the direction of one of his men, who was ambling up a rusted set of stairs, his twin already at the top, arms linked over his chest. Finn followed, the guy acting as his shadow, might as well have asked him to jump on his back.

Inside mirrored a thousand other establishments in the city, all catering in the skin trade, time may have been shot through the barrel of a rifle but this sort of setup would never give way, it was lifeblood, a ventricle running straight from the heart.

Everything appeared like business as usual, no more suits to be seen on this floor, though the crimson halogens sunk in to the ceiling strained to illuminate even the walls adjacent. Finn stopped halfway down the hallway, turning to the guy, wondering where the hell it was they were going, in response to his unuttered query the man simply pointed upwards. Finn carried on walking.

He was finally stopped on the third after making tracks up a poorly carpeted stairwell, synthetic fabric the same colour as the halogens; rusted blood with patterns like something out of a bad trip. Pushing the beaten metallic door open, he was greeted by several other suits and a peculiar quiescence that hung in the room.

The man took point as Finn lit up, striding down the cramped lobby, heavies slapping their backs against the wall like they had magnets in their spines. He passed one room, opening ajar slightly, spotted a woman (he figured) sitting on the edge of a bed, hand dancing, trying to keep a smoke steady as she guided it to her lips.

Not breaking his gait, he halted when the man did so to push a pale door open. He nodded for Finn to enter.

A pair of slacks hung over a chair next to a vanity table, they were Yosuro‟s, finely tailored, not any of that fake synthetic crap he now bought wholesale. On the dresser sat the usual makeup Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 13

applicators, garish shades of blue able to change hue in the flick of a switch, blusher, nothing out of the ordinary as far as this profession was concerned.

Finn slid open a drawer, two butterfly clips adorned with fanciful patterns, not really gelling with his preconceptions, but that was their nature. A small jewellery box when opened played a song from a childhood perhaps, not his, certainly not hers. Inside lay a small datapad, he flicked it on, slid through a slew of images denoting far off lands, odd ends of artwork, dreams she held, or simply a pre-programmed want to collect aesthetically appealing icons.

It unsettled him and a mental finger could not be placed on why.

“Mr Finn?” The man‟s voice cut in, Finn shook his head, the chime of the box filtering in. He shut it, absently sliding the pad into his pocket.

His gaze jumped from the suits reflection in the cracked mirror, caught a glimpse of a pale leg wrinkled by time‟s arrow.

He turned to face the reflection, the whole view loading in an instant behind his eyes. Sheets and pillows thrown off the bed, signs of an obvious struggle, whatever had cracked the glass; it wasn‟t any part of him, no blood, not cuts. Just him in one of his white shirts, boxers, (although he always seemed like the tidy- whities kind of boss) and what appeared to be multiple instances of bruising round the neck.

“Anybody touch anythin‟?” Finn said, examining the neck, eyes in the dead man‟s sockets rolling around like glossy eight balls.

“No.” The man said from across the room, “One of the women in this establishment‟s employ found him after hearing a struggle. She heard noises as she was using the stairwell, she said when she arrived the perpetrator had already escaped.”

“What about his guards?”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 14

He straightened his tie, “They were... preoccupied elsewhere.”

Finn audibly exhaled, scratched the stubble around his chin with a latex clad hand. “You sure it was this dead-head?”

“Most definitely, onsite x-ray proved that the jugular was crushed with above-human strength, security saw no-one else enter or leave.”

“I knew he was into the rough stuff... usually the other way round though... What did the eyes catch?”

“They were disabled on this floor—for privacy‟s sake, the other data is corrupted.”

“Not giving me much to go on... that girl available?”

“Yes, this way.” He motioned outside the room.

Finn gave the corpse one last look, in death everyone appeared defenceless, a certain quality attained that reminded him of newborn infants, a helplessness.

The man escorted him to the door that they had passed several minutes prior, the mountain of a man made his exit and allowed Finn to enter. This place was a carbon copy of the previous space, same red satin sheets, though these ones seemed to have been made up, unprofessionally, like a job someone would do just before heading out to work.

He delved into his pocket, took out his pack of Sphinx’s, popped one into his mouth, offered her one, she accepted, he lit it for her.

“I already told them everythin‟.” She started, visibly shaken, eyes sunken, invisible weight driven between her shoulder blades causing her to hunch.

“Do me a solid and play it back to me, may have missed somethin‟.”

She blew smoke through her nostrils, sent it pooling to the carpet below. “I was comin‟ up the stairs, could hear some bangin‟—”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 15

“Get that a lot here though?” Finn interjected.

“‟Course—but it just sounded... different. So I check what‟s goin‟ on, see the room‟s open...

know only that Lil‟s workin‟ tonight—”

“Lil?”

“Yeah—the dead-head.” She huffed.

“Sorry.” His hand worked the pen frantically on the notepad. “Go on.”

“So I go to check on her, the door‟s open, I go in, that‟s when I see the guy.”

“That‟s it?”

“Yeah, like I said, I already told you everythin‟—and I didn’t see where she went.”

“OK—OK.” Finn brought his hands up, put the notepad away, took a last drag on the cigarette. “Let me just get rid of this.”

The woman turned her head, a little too quick, as he headed over to a trash can in the corner, dropping the spent butt in.

“We‟re done here.” He said to the suit, walking out of the room.

Back in the hallway he passed through the exit the woman said she‟d heard the ruckus behind. He stopped halfway down the steps as one of the heavies shut the door, made like he was searching his pockets for something, carried on.

Outside, chill brought back with a vengeance, rumble in the distance, forewarning of a downpour, he ambled down the steps, suit in tow.

“Do you have any hypotheses?”

“Still workin‟ on them.” He said, looking back at the structure, gaudy on the outside as it was on the inside, like a hooker‟s handbag carved from stone and steel.

“You have no more use for the building?”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 16

“Nah, get your boys outta there, damage control.”

“Is there anything else you require?”

“Yeah, my price just doubled.”

He told the suit to give him some space, didn‟t need a shadow tailing him, scare off all the fish, though he felt like he was trawling an exsiccated lake. He‟d taken his number, said he‟d raise him when he‟d caught something, told him not to wait up.

When the men had departed, the back entrance devoid of black sedan‟s and men whose chest measurements dwarfed their IQ, he returned to the building.

Hiking up to the third floor, he checked the room they had interviewed her in.

Nothing.

Finn went back to the second, the one she said she‟d been working on. Grabbing one of the girls that had just finished with a client, he asked if she‟d seen her, said she was dealing with someone two doors down.

Finn wrapped on the beaten wood, got no response, hit it harder, heard footsteps approaching, the latch unlocking.

A man, donned in a white bathrobe that looked like it belonged to a midget, hem just about shielding the man‟s modesty. “Hey asshole I‟ve got fifteen more minutes.”

“Just need a quick chat—two minutes.”

“Still gotta pay, like all of us.”

The client went to slam the door, Finn‟s forearm came up to stay the motion, the man, not too impressed grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket.

“I SAID—”

Ingham / Meta-Noemics / 17

Sentence cut off midstream as he felt cold iron catch him between the thighs, looked down to see the gun‟s barrel aimed squarely at his crotch.

“I‟ll admit I‟m not much of a sharpshooter, but I‟m bound to hit somethin‟ at this range.”

The client released his grip, backing off to the wall.

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Meta-Noemics