Fiction

Detective Cordite’s Personal Notes – Neo-Luddite Violence

Sadly predictable violence at the Technofetishist Rally earlier on today. Six dead, dozens injured. All accessible drone feeds and witnesses show a crowd of Neo-Luddites protesting the rally, though miraculously for our era we haven’t yet managed to piece together who threw the first blow. The Technofetishists are howling for blood; they want these cavemen found, beaten and tossed into space. Though for the most part in breach of no laws on the books, the Technofetishists are forever seeking some kind of validation from the larger population. No one really cares about them; you’re free to seek spiritual and personal satisfaction however you choose, provided you don’t hurt any non-consenting parties. But the Technofetishist death-rate is noteworthy, with dozens of citizens getting themselves caught in complex-yet-evidentially-alluring machinery every year. On top of this, the average citizen is unable to afford the kind of clinic who stand a chance of achieving their trans-humanist ideals in a capable, sterile environment. I’ve seen enough hookers with badly-calibrated pneumatics whining from their exposed, scratched chrome hips as they lean down into a John’s window to last a lifetime.

The Neo-Luddites are always spoiling for a fight, and the Technofetishists give them all the justification their backward code of ethics requires to okay beating the decadence out of a few kids going through some complex identity issues. Their mission statement is as predictable as their methods: Fallen is Babylon, humanity is unanchored, we’ve lost sight of what makes us blah blah. Their solution to the existential crisis arising from universal technological permeation and acceleration? Smash the looms, back to the caves, etc.

The State’s been attempting to plant agents in the Neo-Luddites for a few years, but they’re a difficult group to spy on; very insular, hard to approach. You need to show real dedication to the ideal of a tech-free landscape, shunning all possible technology with vigor and instead attending to the practice of… I don’t know, lifting things up and rubbing sticks together? It isn’t difficult to have an agent pretend they hate technology. The difficulty stems from preventing them from buying into it. Once you’ve managed to get into the trials of admittance, you’re cut off. They last for weeks, and you’re to live with other prospective Luddites. Everyone is watching everyone; there’s no chance to smuggle technology in or communicate with your controllers. It’s the perfect environment for weeding out plants. And once you’ve got your mole identified you get to choose; neutralise, or convert?

Of the eight attempts I know of to plant a G-Man in the Neo-Luddites, three are presumed dead and four are true believers now. The only escapee still gets jumpy around Old World tools, like hammers and saws.

The only sense of advantage we have over the Neo-Luddites is from what we perceive to be their hypocrisy; there’s no way that a group like that could be so well-maintained, organised and inscrutable without some kind of technological intelligence infrastructure. At times in the past when we’ve attended to the scene of a street brawl between the Luddites and some other gang or ‘movement’, it’s been standard procedure to let off an EMP charge or two upon arrival. Scrambles the weapons of whoever’s fighting, gives us an immediate advantage in a combative situation. Doesn’t really bother the Luddites though, as they’re fighting with bats, knives and other lethal implements that don’t require circuitry. We do, however, often find downed surveillance drones in the aftermath. All serials removed and memory flashed upon signal disruption.

I reckon the Neo-Luddites aren’t who they think they are. No one’s got any idea about the leadership structure of the group, save a few surprising influential citizens who’ve left a financing paper trail back to them. It wouldn’t be difficult to set up a kind of militia like this while remaining in the shadows above, no one but the highest echelons of command aware of your existence and leadership. Wouldn’t even need to believe in the ethos; that’s just a useful tool to galvanise the troops and ensure there’s no incriminating hard-drives, because they aren’t allowed to use them.

But then they say I’m paranoid.

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‘hong-kong’ – 2014, wrote on used receipt until i ran out of room

The compound-guard’s eyes changed colour as Li crossed the short bridge to the thick, mechanised gate, suffocating street traffic left behind all of a sudden. Few had reason to turn onto the anachronistic wooden walkway, and the guard in front of the solid, maroon door was all it took to dissuade the curious. His was a semi-sophisticated rig-job. If the Triad could afford tank-grown, it wasn’t letting anyone know. The guard’s body was ridged with semi-flexible bio-alloys, face concealed by a helm which delivered vital readouts and communiqués directly to his sensory nerves. The sapphire blue LEDs which dotted the faceplate switched to cautious amber as Li approached. His grip didn’t noticeable tighten around the rifle in his hands; it didn’t have to. Though primarily connected to the guard’s spine, lacking the full-body nerve bond that would have come as standard with a tank-job, the armour still acted as an exoskeleton, propelling the user’s strength and reflexes far beyond their organic base. If the genius-loci of the Bearded Tigers chose to reject this pilgrim, the last thing Li would see in this life would be an impossibly fast snap of movement, accompanied by the faceplate lights taking their final, terminal plunge to crimson.

Li considered tg=his as he made his way across the wooden bridge, making no effort to appear overtly diplomatic. He fought the urge to hold his palms out at his sides. The guard had doubtless detected the circuitry of his Mazzaram sidearm immediately, the Neo-Persian weapon considered the gun of choice for diplomats and ambassadors; the weapon was designed to announce itself to security systems loudly, in code that some mechanists described as ‘courteous’, or ‘civil’. Li suspected it only took the guard a quick sweep of his heat signature to notice the .38 snub too, a black slab of cold iron against the warmth of his ankle. Such crude, Pre-Nano throwbacks were often useful against those who placed too much faith in high-tech security. Some Canadian police departments no longer even bothered training officers in old-fashioned ballistics. Li’s intentions in carrying this weapon here weren’t malevolent; only a fool would think they could conceal or smuggle something here. But such precautions gave off the right message: he was capable.

When he was about three feet away from the sentry, Li stopped and stood, almost feeling the countless scanners and view-feeds caress him.
“I seek an audience with the Bearded Tigers,” he announced clearly to both the guard and the security team watching him.
“I have not been invited, yet I have information regarding Luo Zhun which I do not wish to share in an unsecure manner.”
Li waited, counting an unblinking twelve seconds, before the faceplate in front of him switched back to blue and the gate slowly, loudly slid open. The wooden boards he stood on were fat with rain, and Li knew there was a plethora of explosives and EMP emitters hidden beneath to stop any force the guard found beyond him. The Bearded Tigers’ territory was bordered on all sides by canal. With the flip of a switch, they could turn their piece of Hong Kong into a fortress. The gate finally open, the guard stepped aside to allow Li entry, and Li stepped forth over the threshold. He didn’t turn as the door slid shut. Ho didn’t need to to know that the guard was no longer watching him, Li knew his life now lay at the whim of any of a dozen snipers concealed in the higher apartment windows. His every breath now was a gift from the Triad. He set off straight ahead, moving away from the canal and into the heart of the district. There was more litter here, yet it felt cleaner. The Triads had long maintained a policy of exclusion in regard to foreign megacorps and zaibatsus, and as such the scant neon on display was all local. The lack of multinational indicators gave the place a sense of ‘authenticity’, mostly absent from such urban spaces and colonies.

The long path, walled in by housing tenements that stretched up into the cosmetic night sky’s orange haze came into a large central plaza, circular and dominated by a massive statue of Guan Yu, venerated in the Pre-Nano age as a god of war by some, loyalty by others. Li suspected that Guan Yu’s legendarily prominent beard was the true reason this particular Triad had adopted the long-dead god as their patron saint. At the foot of the statue, standing waist-high next to it was a woman Li recognised. It was intimidating, to be greeted by a face which stated out from countless wanted posters in the sprawl of south-east Asia.
“You know me.” She called to him across the eerily empty plaza as he approached. It didn’t sound like a question.
“You are Xing Guozhang,” Li responded, stopping halfway into the plaza. Might as well give the marksmen plenty of room to work with, he thought.
“Rising star of the Bearded Tigers,” Li continued. “It is said you’ll likely make Red Pole within the month.” Xing was covered from neck to toe with thick, grey traditional robes. Li quietly hoped she wouldn’t ask him to come closer. With all the obvious hidden security, the robe was a disarmingly defenceless article to wear. Li wasn’t fooled; by appearing relaxed in this place of her utmost safety, few would immediately suspect the arsenal of hidden guns and augmentations doubtless beneath the thick folds. Li was familiar enough with the Triads to know that someone like Xing didn’t rise the ascend the ladder this high by lowering her defences around ambitious allies.

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‘axehead’ – 2013, Bored at work

Ever hear that philosophical koan about the ship? A ship leaves port with lumber and a full crew. When it reaches the next port, rotten planks are replaced, crewmates leave and are similarly replaced. By the time it gets back to its point of origin, every plank and crewmember has been replaced. Is it the same ship as the one which first set sail?

First they took my eyes. Advanced biometrics were substituted, featuring high-definition feed quality, along with zoom, light-amplification, thermal-visioning and cutting-edge probability-matrix functioning. I took so well to my upgrade that I was selected for the Unit 23 trials. Basically they were guinea-pigging experimental combat augmentations on me, supposedly to check which upgrades could work in synchrony with others without conflicting. The true, unspoken motive behind my mechanisation, which became harder to conceal with every part of me they swapped out for experimental tech, was the clandestine development of a cutting-edge cybernetic combat unit. The public could handle the idea of a wounded soldier getting some new legs, or a squad being fitted with integrated visual HUDs, for better battlefield communication in the style of Landwarrior. But perfectly capable limbs, organs and synapses being replaced en-mass in the pursuit of greater lethal functionality? It was too ‘dystopian sci-fi’ for people to stomach.

A golem was being quietly pieced together while they slept, and it seemed unlikely that they would take well to this military-grade homunculus.

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