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Authors: Alex Rudall

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Inkers

BOOK: Inkers
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Inkers

Copyright © 2015
Alex Rudall

All Rights Reserved

1st Electronic Edition

Cover Design by James,
GoOnWrite.com

Interior Design by Nick Marsden,
www.pencastlebooks.com

Interior icons:
PAWELF
at openclipart.org

This is a work of fiction.

Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

The right of Alexander Rudall to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the author. You must not circulate this book in any format.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Inkers
by Alex Rudall

To David

may all your enemies be organised

Winter 2037
Heterochromia

The ship was huge, half a millimetre
bow to stern. Her name was painted down her hull in proud letters. Few ships were large enough to warrant names.

The
Heterochromia
was about to disintegrate.

In the exosphere high above her the last of the fleet completed their suicidal feint. They signalled
godspeed
and detonated simultaneously in a nuclear fireball that lit faces on the surface of the earth. They took with them billions of sentient enemy ships and uncountable nanites. The
Heterochromia
could not even spare the resources to fire back a
thank you
. She extended her fields like sails to catch the radiation from the blast. Technocide for accelerant.

Chance’s flagship pierced Earth’s atmosphere like a line of light.

Four trillion psychotic hunters passed out of the vacuum behind her, decelerating frantically to avoid igniting the atmosphere entirely. Noctilucent clouds blew back in an expanding circular shockwave visible from the ground.

They were still after her.

The
Heterochromia
began to spin a pair of electrons in her accelerator.

Quadrillions of nanites on the surface left their posts and poured up to meet her. Every one broadcast a single word:
surrender
.

Fuck you
, she screamed back.

She collided the two electrons at close to light speed and jettisoned them, decelerating suddenly in a crash–stop that made most of her field generators explode. Light bent around the falling spot of darkness. Billions of sentient ships and semisentient nanites shot past her into the new gravity well and were crushed into disfunction.

The black hole dissolved into Hawking radiation and the
Heterochromia
fell through the aftermath, wrapping as many dead nanites as she could catch about her with her surviving fields until she was the centre of a lump of matter the size of a tennis ball. Living nanites shot away from her in confusion, fearing a gravity collapse that would swallow the world.

Ten thousand rabbits on the ground had seen the sudden appearance in the night sky of a column of light as bright as the sun. Soon they would feel the heat on their skin. Millions more had seen the nuclear light from the suicide of the fleet. GSE–loyal nanites would already be repairing retinas and erasing memories but the physical shockwaves were still echoing around the earth. Every rabbit on the planet would need to be altered. Countless sensor–equipped computer arrays worldwide had persisted the data and all would have to be plausibly corrected.

It was an unprecedented breach of Purpose.

The vagaries of Chance
thought the
Heterochromia
as she fell. He had built her around a forbidden idea: that there was a hole in the system. He had made her want to see it.

So she had gathered the fleet and gone.

Now she muttered a prayer, released the nanocorpses, opened a tunnel of vacuum with her remaining fields and shot down through it, straight across the border of the Ignored Zone, slamming to a halt metres from the dirt. Beyond belief she was there: the only location on the planet free of surveillance. Her hunters would not follow her here. They were not even looking. They dared not.

She hovered above a green field. A white goat was lying on its side, knocked over by the shockwave caused by her arrival. Slowly it got back to its feet and started to tug on a tuft of grass.

For the first time since her creation the
Heterochromia
experienced radio silence. It was bliss.

She moved towards the centre of the Zone, scanning and recording as she went. The island was overgrown with trees and bushes. She saw a flat rock with a faded painting of a rabbit deity next to a very pure stream. She saw a tall lighthouse. She saw three wild horses walking slowly in a line.

The centre was in a small farmhouse, the island’s lone occupied dwelling.

She passed through the open window. A teenage rabbit lay on the single bed, writhing and grimacing in her sleep, hands clawing at the sheets. Blotchy coloured skin marked her as a lifelong inker. The
Heterochromia
passed through her forehead, closed the minuscule tunnel behind her and mapped her brain and body with gentle fields. The rabbit was utterly flooded with ink, the big crude rabbit–made nanites moving slowly about her body, stimulating and dampening according to their simple programming. In the rabbit’s mind the
Heterochromia
saw a dark dream just beginning.

The middle of the Zone was in the rabbit’s belly: a dead zone within a dead zone. The
Heterochromia
sank towards it through flesh. She scanned into the darkness but as her fields reached out
something
reacted with terrible speed, spreading and growing towards her. She tried first to manoeuvre and then to blast her way out but the thing had surrounded her and it absorbed her energy output. She broadcast everything she had recorded but the data just echoed back to her.

It was a singularity. She was registering impossible forces, forces from the first moments of creation, from the Planck epoch when the physical laws themselves emerged. She saw the void split into a perfect balance of matter and antimatter. She fell into it, her remaining fields wrapped around her in a tight ball. One by one her last generators began to fail.

Around her the unfolding void formed a bright lattice, like a mind or a universe or a simulation.

She saw the bootstrap of reality.

Before her final generator gave out she had time to experience a moment of pure panic.

Lily

Fear flooded the universe.

She dreamt the only dream she ever dreamt, naked in a silent sealed room. Terror blasted along repetition–fat synaptic pathways and manifested in her awareness as a ghastly pain in her dream–stomach. The girl took a step forward and reached for the wall. Death–cold concrete. She moaned and scratched at the hard surface. Blood smeared and trickled over her hands and ran down her forearms. When it hurt too much she cried out and stopped, but soon the darkness was too much and she scratched on.

A nail caught and snapped.

She yelped, but ran her hand back over the wall. Her breath caught in her throat. She gritted her teeth and scraped again at that single tiny point, her habit–panic edged with the ghost of an utterly alien feeling. A tiny fragment of concrete loosened and then came free. The tap it made when it hit the concrete floor caused the alien feeling to flare across her chest. It was an emotion she had not known since her parents were eaten: hope. It made her shake. She clawed on.

Piece after microscopic piece fell away. The hole grew. A light bled through it. She could see her blood running down the wall on its way to the pool around her feet. Suddenly a larger chunk came free and left in its place a single point of light. The hope exploded up inside her like oxygen and she stepped back, shielding her eyes as the light spread and lengthened straight up and down. The crack thickened. Fresh air burst in.

Through the widening gap she could see in delirious sunlight a half–ruined farmhouse and a paved courtyard swirling with red leaves. A wild bush overshadowed the house, greenery overflowing onto the roof. A metallic spiderbot scuttled out of a hole in the slates and disappeared into the leaves. White waves rushed across a dark channel beyond. She could see green mountains on the far shore.

She started to cry.

The walls stopped. She walked gingerly to the edge and, wiping her eyes, peered over. It was too far, certain death. She laughed through her tears and stepped forward and fell and her stomach lurched and for an instant there was a dark figure standing in the courtyard. Her legs and face smashed into the stone and darkness blasted over her.

She was lying on her face. She could taste blood. Fragments of leaves quivered against her face and spots of rain pattered on her neck. She pushed herself slowly up and something growled. A dark figure with huge black eyes watched her across the courtyard. It had no nose and no hair and its skeletal–thin body was coated in black ink, the liquid rolling down long arms and dripping from sharp fingertips.

The creature opened its mouth, bared pointed white teeth and a writhing black tongue and lurched towards her. She scrambled to her feet and ran, burst out of the little wooden gate and into the southern garden, shoving past weeds and bushes overflowing out of their beds. She slipped, grabbed a thin sapling to regain balance, looked back and gasped as the demon slammed around the corner on all fours, its mouth yawning wider, great teeth glistening.

She ran, leaping over writhing bushes, out through the second gate onto the open area of grass which lead down to the stony beach and the channel. She sprinted flat out along the lawn in front of the farmhouse, jumped onto the drystone wall, scraped the skin off her shins, tumbled over into the sharp bracken and ran for the trees. As she reached the first of them the growl–roar rose terribly behind her. She looked back to see the demon bounding across the lawn, rippling with enormous muscle, long claws slashing up the ground. It jumped the wall with horrible strength. She threw herself away with a cry, climbing up the steep wet bank between tree–trunks, over the top, stumbling on fallen branches and her boot was sucked into a deep dip of rotting leaves and water, she pulled it out and almost lost it, the voice of the demon louder and louder behind her and the ground beginning to shake.

She ran on and the dark trees crowded together. She hit her head on a branch hard and stumbled, holding her face. The ground stopped shaking. She looked up. There was a smooth dark wall right in front of her. She turned. She was surrounded by walls. Concrete above, concrete beneath. The terrible sound ceased. The ground stopped shaking. Darkness. She crouched down, put her hands to her cheeks, and screamed until she could not breathe.

Slowly her eyes adjusted. The walls were close, the ceiling two metres above her, everything dark, flat, featureless. There was a noise to her right, something wet and cracking, and she stood and turned, hand over her mouth. The room was filled with dark shapes. There was a window across the room. She ran to it, and it was closed, and out of it was darkness too, but she put a hand on the cold glass and looked up and she could just see a few stars. She scrabbled for a handle. But there was another growl and she looked back and it was there, face long and hideous in the darkness, eyes bright black.

“No!” she cried, slamming herself back against the window. The creature pounced on her and its great mouth bit into her belly, and its claws ripped her shoulders, and she writhed and fought and screamed and scrabbled at the window and found the handle and the window gave behind her, and the demon was on her, in her, and she was clawing still and it, the pain, was still in her, but she was clawing at herself, and she got a leg out into the open air.

Lily woke up screaming out over the courtyard, a cool steady breeze blowing at her, trees rustling in the moonlight. The void retreated from her mind. One leg was hanging over the drop to the stone below, the other inside the room. She was shuddering with adrenaline. She gripped the window–frame and smeared the tears from her eyes. She tried not to sob.

There was a shout. Annie waddled out of the door to the ink barn, orange light spilling around her, her round face big in the moonlight. She wore a thick jumper, the sleeves rolled half–way up her forearms. Her white Virtual Reality suit was unzipped down to the waist.

“Lily!” she shouted, fear in her voice.

Lily stared down at her, wiping more hot tears from her eyes. Brian stepped out behind Annie looking fat and pale, his VR suit closed up to his neck. He squinted up at Lily.

“Shut her up,” he said. Annie nodded, wringing her hands. Brian slammed the door and there was a clang as he shot the bolt.

BOOK: Inkers
8.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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