October 11, 2012 in origins, parthenoid by Sian Pearl

Sept 27, 10:26

“I’m here for the audit.”

Sian find the room intimidatingly bare – concrete floor, plain white walls, paint peeling in places, one table, one chair, a tablet on the console next to a small black case. A man in T-shirt and jeans stand by the window, looking out, and in front of him is Fl0RenCe, who stands behind the table, one finger, nail like a burgundy blade, pressed onto the scratched laminated surface. Sian zooms in on the nail. The lacquer is chipped. She keeps looking at it.

“7426073275P.” Fl0RenCe barks out the numbers, a monotone. “Freelancer.”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Preferred abbreviation?”


“We’ll call you P.”

The man by the window steps over and opens the case.

“Sit, please,” Fl0RenCe says, motioning towards the plastic chair with something that looks worryingly to Sian like a chopping motion. She sits before her conscious brain processes the command. The man leans over her — Sian can see chickenpox scars, three, on his jawline, can smell his breath. Her neural processor fires up and the display in the corner of her vision lists exactly what he drank last night and in what quantities, the brand of toothpaste he uses, the percentage chance that he needs dental support in the next two weeks, the  contact of a nearby dentist… she’s already flustered, and when she tries to shut it off, she ends up opening two more NeuralApps. Two little rows of brightly coloured gems match into groups of three and detonate before she manages to calm down and close it down.

“P?” Fl0RenCe is staring at her with blank plastic orbs not unlike her own. “Focus.”

“Sorry. What do you want me to-”

The man plugs a cable into the port at Sian’s temple, leading to the device in the case, swipes a finger across a touchscreen. Something chimes. Sian’s mind reboots. Bluescreen.

Mar 31, 0827

Sian wakes up in a big double bed. Sunlight streams through a window the width of the room. Everything is white, everything is pungent with the aftersmells of sex. She is alone, although she can hear a shower running in the ensuite. A plastic minidress, transparent, lies on the floor, a pair of black latex knickers, matching thighhighs and armpit-long gloves, a pair of vertiginous heels. She sits up, rubs her head, realises that her hair is not there, her scalp utterly smooth.

She registers the date/time display as her vision clears.

It’s March, she thinks. How did it get to be March?

The shower stops. A moment later a hairdryer starts.

She pads over to a massive mirror, puts a finger to the IDCode tattooed on her forehead, begins to have an inkling of what happened in the interview room. Her eyebrows are gone, her eyelashes sticky, false, overly long, the array of feathery nylon strands over the left eye come slightly loose. Gently, Sian peels it off, and then the other. She does not recognise her face.  She becomes aware of the processor booting up.  OK, she things, maybe it can-

Something chimes.  Bluescreen.

Oct 11, 15:13

Sian comes to herself. She is clothed, sitting at a desk. She shakes her head, becomes aware of the heavy wireless headset she is wearing, the practical, sober business suit. Everywhere is noise, chimes of comms, the background buzz of wireless signals too close to speakers, the chatter of voices. She looks around, is in the middle of a vast open-plan office, ranks of men and women in headsets, neurally linked to their workstations, talking in low, clipped tones.


In the corner of her vision, next to the symbol of an idle network connection, the processor blinks a message: please wait while updates complete… installing…

A callcentre?

Something chimes. Bluescreen.

Dec 10, 09:57

She stands in the interview room, which is exactly as it is now save for a small pink tinsel Christmas tree standing in the corner, sporting two lonely baubles. She sways slightly on stiletto heels of intimidating height, feels the rustle of a heavy suit jacket. It’s so cold in her she can see her breath.

A man in shirtsleeves sits on the plastic chair, gooseflesh on his arms, the low wintery sunlight catching the interface shining at his temple. He looks up at her expectantly, fearfully. The man with the chickenpox scars steps into her field of vision, stares straight into her face with an expression at first quizzical, then mildly annoyed

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he mutters. He reaches into a pocket, pulls out a small tablet device, begins swiping screen displays.

“Excuse me. Can you tell me-” begins Sian.

He ignores her, swipes across, up, across, down, taps.

Something chimes. Bluescreen.

Feb 14, 23:16

Sian blinks. Her head hurts like crazy, throbbing, causing little bursts of colour to detonate across her vision. Everything is slightly pixelated. Something wet and warm runs down the side of her head. She is in the middle of a residential street. It’s been raining, and recently; the yellow of the streetlamps reflects on the road; droplets of water run down the transparent plastic minidress that chafes against her skin. In her latex-gloved hand she holds an automatic pistol.

The gun is warm, and it’s empty, the chamber slid back. As Sian’s vision clears, she turns, realising that she is standing next to the corpse of a man, sprawled awkwardly on the asphalt, a clean hole in his forehead, the contents of his skull scattered a good ten feet across the road.  He is wearing a T-shirt with a big red love heart across the chest. She finds herself thinking how embarrassing it would be to die like that.

A voice in Sian’s ear: “P. P, respond.” She’s wearing a bluetooth earpiece.

“I’m here.”

“Target status, please?”

Sian tries hard to think what the word is.



“Less… than optimal.”

The implant begins to flash error messages across the centre of her field of vision.

“Your connection is down.” The voice gains a note of urgency. “Control status?”

Sian racks her brain for the right response. “Under… control?”

The voice pauses. “P, you will remain in your location and await collection.”

The implant screams at her to reboot. She shuts it down, suddenly feeling an intense feeling of loss, of slowness, of stupidity.

“P, respond,” repeats the voice.

Sian shakes her head again, puts her hand to her head, sees, blood on her shining rubberised fingers. Panic rises. She could go back and they’ll turn her off again — but she doesn’t know where she is, doesn’t know anyone, has no money. Where would she go?

Sian suddenly makes a decision. She plucks the earpiece out, walks across to the kerb, and drops it into the drain. She takes off her high heels, one by one, and flings them as far down the street as she can. Rummaging in the hardshell purse over her shoulder she finds a bank card, a driving license, a housekey, some cash. She flings away the bank card — it’s an unfamiliar bank, and she has no idea what the PIN is. It has her serial number on it but it might as well not be hers.

And then she begins to run.  She doesn’t have long.

Feb 17, 04:26

“How far can I get on three hundred pounds?”

The clothes donated by the homeless shelter — a pair of jeans, a woollen sweater, a shirt, some trainers — may be battered but they are warm and comfortable.

The gun, pawned, bought her a meal, a pay-and-go phone, and a cheap defusing process in the dodgy mobile tech shop every town has, sitting in a chair surrounded by cheap mobile covers and knock-off chargers; plugged in, mindwiped one last time and rebooted, she feels almost in control, the processor now at least not connected to her clients.

The woman at the train station sells her a ticket to Hangars Liquides.

You have to start somewhere.