bAdmod - Part 1
"The diff' between ya friends and ya enemies is ya can trust ya enemies"
-- bAdmod, in Operation Nanophunk (ep. 82)

StarGate Port Station Briv-4
St Heiden Polity
Tabridgen System
Byran Sector
Auriga Outer Volumes
(counterspinwards Perseus Rift, rimward Orion Federation)

The elevator takes Tommi Grannish ("bAdmod" to almost everyone except his parents and the authorities) to the main disembarkation lounge. It is a vast open space crowded with light and movement. Huge and shiny and opulant with gaudy corp ads. Bigger than a station this far from the Inner Sphere has a right to be. He cranes his head, scanning the crowd. Madverts flutter around, hawking their wares. An Empledokcetic drone offers him a free vecorg upgrade. Even after three weeks of adaptation therapy, the bright lights and movement are unsettling to him. No sign of Fast Zerrin. The fucker's icon is still alseep as well. bAdmod 's feeling really naked without his mods on. Takes a deep breath, grabs his bags, steps onto the lower peripheral deck. Everything is a riot of activity, the push and rush and sweat of a StarGate faculty servicing the periphery. Every fucking clade and race and tribe terragen civilization has spawned swarms around him. A million get rich opportunities here. A million broken dreams and wasted lives.

bAdmod pulls up a map in his retinal viewer. Fast Zerrin had told him he has his hab out in Blu Jafikan. Wherever the fuck that is. It's not on the interactive map. If that sib has fucked with him, bAdmod will zerk.

The sight of two station police in powered myoarmor make him flinch. He reminds himself he is a free hu. The cops ignore him. He feels angry for being scared. The bAdmod of the virch series wouldn't be scared. Lunth-Wang City, says a sign in phased array neon. Reder, says another. Billie's Rock. Woo Habitat. Nuiasgard. Crowds all around. Walking, floating, flying, crawling, rolling. Milling for the exits. Waiting for their flight to leave. New arrivals. New departures. Madverts, remotes, drones, alifes competing with the sentients for space. A big 3D sings praises of Young Quantim, the St Heiden hyperturing. Another one advises everyone to buy Somo, The Drink of Life. Rank smell of ozone and sweat and pheronomes and aromatics in his nostrils. bAdmod clutches his bags. Even in the low gee of the disembarkation lounge, and the glyde that provides a frictionless surface under them, they're heavy and difficult to manage. Pushes past races he recognises and others he doesn't have the faintest fucking idea who or what they are. Two arms four arms six arms short tall fat thin biont cyborg vec sybont suited unsuited microtech biotech nanotech synanotech organomachinary button-head sockets wetware face jobs and suddenly bAdmod is convinced that every clade of haloer and hider and backgrounder tweak and splice and 'borg and vec in the known universe has congregated in this very port just to fuck with his head.

just to fuck with his head
just to fuck with his head
just to fuck with his head
just to fuck with his head

From one of the computronium nodes in the station, the aioid Security Poligard ai Dulx 59022 messages eir partner. "Input, suspicious target."

The aioid Security Poligard Rund 20473 scans the crowd. "Response. Which one? They're all suspicious target. Joke.."

"Response with laugh-at-joke. Reference is to stocky plebhu-neb human with encrypted luggage and mod ports."

"Conform target as sweating nearbaseline (mongrel nonspecific clade) just disembarked Kapaty 1800 Shuttle. Target wearing "what are you looking at dumbfuck?" T-shirt. Target ID, Grannish, Tommi."


"Response confirm query, what about him?"

"Suggestion (human phrasebyte for evocative effect): I think we should bust him. (end phrase)"

"Query: What for? Subject in sight has not performed illegal actions."

"Request: Check out target stats, access ID."

"Copy. Checking.....Target has record of minor offences at Karpaty. Has had behavioural modification, self-imposed exile (Karpaty mea culpa sociomemetic behaviour code)."

"Observation: Grannish, Tommi has broken his conditioning."

"Confirm with reply: because he left exile at RobRock Service Depot after 8 (standard) years rather than the usual 8 3/4?"

"Requested reply: Affirmative. Comment: No-one leaves that soon unless they have broken their conditioning."

"Observation: Input suspect. Observations simulations-response give toposophic rating 0.35, Berriam-7 Scale. Rhetorical query: How could he break his conditioning?"

"Deduction: (hypothesis for coinsideration) sophont or sophonts unknown, with higher toposophic rating, broke it for him."

"Reply: this unit concedes your argument is valid, Dulx 59022."

"Suggest precautionary action as follows: apply initative and putting tracer on suspect."

"Reply with confirmation/consensus agreement: Affirmative."

A slot a tenth the width of a human hair slides open, and Galactic Microteks model 4T-d300 police microbot serial number 23908-45183-b50026 descends from the arrival lounge ceiling on wings of fullerene cilia to Suspect One, a vast macrocosm of flesh and sinew, cheap implants, and bot-woven polyweave clothing beneath it.

Fuck this. This isn't bAdmod's scene at all. He drops his bags with a thump. Stands put, lets the crowd mill past him like so many fishes past a submerged rock. Fast Zerrin's icon still isnt answering. The station cops are starting to give him sus looks. A big glowing banner announces "Welcome to St Heiden - Gateway to the Byran Sector".

Someone taps him on the shoulder. bAdmod spins around, hands primed and ready to strike.

Fast Zerrin laughs at him. "Whoah sib! Chill out."

"Fuck you baseline I've been waiting here" bAdmod checks his retinal chronometer "all of twenty eight minutes thirteen seconds Karpaty time, you know that?" His eyes flicker to the girl. Fast Zerrin always has a girl. Or three.

Fast Zerrin opens his arms. "Who's the fucking sib! Who's the fucking sib!" bAdmod grins. It's been a long time. They hug.

"Fuck you sib," bAdmod says as they let go of each other. "What'd you leave me waiting for! Huh??? I'm like going crazy here!"

Fast Zerrin's suit scintillates psychedelically. Seems to be a new aioid of some kind, maybe a domesticated alife, or some sort of dedicated system given its freedom. "Well you're chill now sib!" Fast Zerrin grins. He puts his hands on his shoulders. "Cosmos it's good to 'face you rl Tommi! Still same sour old fuckedup paranoid baseline I know and I love. Boat's this way." Bends down and grabs one of bAdmod's bags, makes a face. "Holy Archailects! What've you got in there? Neutronium?"

"My gear," bAdmod grunts defensively.

"Your gear? Your gear????" Fast Zerrin turns to the girl. "This fucker doesnt believe in matter compilers. He's gotta take everything with him."

"Hahah," the girl says. She is matt black all over, wearing nothing but nanoskin and powerups and a belt thing around her waist and crotch. There is a small silver moon, or maybe a 3D, floating ten centimeters above her head. Without his mods on bAdmod can't tell where the organic part of her ends and the bionic part begins. He stares at her breasts. It has been a long time since he was with a woman. Too long.

Fast Zerrin whistles. He has a whistle that can break glass. Literally. bAdmod winces. The girl doesnt seem to care about it. A coolie trots over. Fast Zerrin says "unit, get my friend's bags."

If the coolie minds the insult, e doesnt show it. Eir actuators whir softly as e effortlesly hefts both bags. Fast Zerrin leads the way with lanky strides, the coolie follows. Then the girl. bAdmod trots after them.

Fast Zerrin waits for him to catch up. "You'll love the hab 'Mod. Over eighty cubic klicks."

"No shit," bAdmod says, impressed. "How'd you pull that?"

Fast Zerrin gives a sly wink.

"So who else is there?"

"No-one you know. You'll get to meet everyone."

"Who's your friend?"

"Li. Li'unie Nyx. Like her?"

bAdmod looks admiringly at the girl. She ignores him. "Zerrin," she says.

Fast Zerrin tosses her a credit chip.


She starts interfacing with the station as they walk, virch shopping spree. bAdmod's still annoyed about having been made to wait, so he says "so Far Star gave you the arse?"

"No I had to let her go."

"You sure she didn't let you go?"

Fast Zerrin stops, pissed. The coolie stops. bAdmod stops. The girl, Li'unie Nyx, maybe having finished her purchased, looks bored.

"Where's Goodboy Chip?" bAdmod says.

Fast Zerrin glares at him.

"I thought it was gonna be you and me and Goodboy Chip" bAdmod persists.

Fast Zerrin says nothing. The coolie waits patiently. The girl wanders off.

bAdmod says "he's dead, aint he?"

"He's chill," Fast Zerrin says.

"Yeah....Chill flatline."

"I'm getting a new bod grown for him. He'll be chill."

"S'pose I end up the same way?"

"Well who's stopping you? Go then!"

"Yeah. I got 2 centicred to my name."

Fast Zerrin tosses a cred spike at him. bAdmod catches it expertly. He's always been good at catching things. Even without his mods on. Fast Zerrin says "there's two big ones in there. Recognized throughout the entire Auriga volume counterspinwise of Jarro. Exchange for dommie cred if you want."

Security Poligard Rund 20473 messages eir partner. "message observation surprise concede your argument. Human phrasebyte for melodramtic effect: You were right about that one."

Security Poligard Dulx 59022 replies "insert biont emotion-object smugness, hu phrasebyte aren't I always?"

"response insert biont emotion-object sarcasm, hu phrasebyte Ha!"

"speculation: (hypothesis) suspect part of a larger network of perpetrators"

"reply: Agree in high likelihood. Suggestion for initiative: hu phrasebyte I am going to bag his nano-pusher buddy."

"reply response: negative do not bag or bug."

"query: why?"

"reply: (hypothesis) too much activity might arouse suspects' suspicions. Check new psychosimulation file 1820983b for possible outcomes ."

"message, emotion-object curiosity. query: what is your plan Dulx 59022?"

"suggestion, using new initative subroutines: We get approval for a sting."

"reply response: unlikely we will get permisison. Access file x2350197 for record of what happened last time"

"reply: concede point, but (hypothesis) outcome may be different, we are under new leadership now"

"query: why should new superior respond differently slash any more favourably than old one?"

"response: (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: suggest give it a try, I'm reprogramming tracer. Okay, instructions sent."

"reply comment: (hypothesis) (warning message) Dulx 59022, you are exceeding your turing number."

"suggestion: input emotion-object simulated hu ego: maybe they will give me a promotion."

"reply: input emotion-object simulated hu anxiety: Or erase you."

"reply: unlikely hypothesis."

"reply: It happens slash has been reported, access files 056743b21 through b49."

"reply: interpretation given available data: Reports in those files considered digital folklore, Rund 20473."

bAdmod flings the cred spike back. Fast Zerrin pockets it.

The three of them stand motionless. People of all races and species wonder past. Last boarding for the 22-15 Shuttle to Nuiazimov Orbital is announced. They start off again.

bAdmod says "where's your honey?"

"She's not my honey," Fast Zerrin says.

"She'd be my honey," bAdmod says.

"Trouble with you 'Mod, you want things too bad."

"What's that thing's name?"

"Novaseeker," Fast Zerrin says. "And she's not a thing." His suit makes a cryptofractal display of astonishing complexity. A small 3D spells out "greetings hu bAdmod".

bAdmod nods in acknowledgment. Seems to him that Fast Zerrin's problems started when he began spending too much time with funny aioids and superbright partials and shit, especially things that were smarter than Zerrin, smarter than any baseline-equivalent human for that matter. And that meant his problems started as well. "You once hu?"

A synthesised female voice from the suit says "you have to admit that's a ridiculous assertion."

bAdmod is sure he's heard that line somewhere before. He should have on his Knowledge Mod at all times. "What then?"

"She's a socialised empathy-trained mediamatic ascended superbright aioid," Fast Zerrin explains. "You should get one too 'Mod. Lighten you up a bit."

"Yeah right."

The walk to the docking park seems to take forever. Too many phased optic displays. Too many crowds. Too many subliminals. Datastream overload. The madverts seem particularily bad here, even though St Heiden is affiliated with the Orion Federation. Or maybe it's just the memebots and neurotransmitters flooding his brain. bAdmod fights the rising panic. He's glad they're going somewhere.

Zerrin's aioid-domestic-hyperbright-whatever-it-is keeps making funny patterns at him.

bAdmod is really glad to finally get to the local docking park. Even the disorientation that comes from microgravity isnt bothering him. Just anything to be away from the crowds and glare and the flashing madverts and intrusive smart ads. "This your yatcht?" bAdmod doesnt even try to conceal the admiration in his voice.

"Nice little item hey? Only interplanetary though. Here you are unit."

The coolie's eyes light up. "Thank you zar!" E pushes off the way they came.

"I dont remember you being such a big tipper," bAdmod says.

"Things are looking up sib. Come on board."

bAdmod follows his friend through the access tube.

Security Poligard Dulx 59022 signals "exclamation: input emotion-object simulated hu expression of frustration."

Security Poligard Rund 20473 messages back: "reply: human phrase-byte well what did you expect? Observation: Even low toposophic minds have sense enough to use a hackwall."

"exclamation: input emotion-object simulated hu expression of frustration: cyborg expression of frustration: Nth squared! Statement/Report: We have lost the signal."

"reply: (hypothesis) negative. Statement/Report: tracer microbot is still fine. Simple deduction: it will continue to operate as long as suspects do not detect it. Initiative: keying in the coordinates for their ship. exclamation: input object simulated hu expression of disappointment/surprise: Archailects!"

"query: What is it?"

"reply: Security HQ is saying we do not have authorisation. Sending you copy..."


"comment response: human phrase-byte so much for that idea. Initiative: Suggestion: investigate the shifty bioborg in the "I want to Feel Your Body Close to Mine" organomimetic erotoginie coverall."

"response: (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: Rund 20473, I have not come this far just to give up now."

"response: input simulated hu expression of concern slash surprise: Dulx 59022, you are talking like a hu."

"reply: self-analysis: affirmative. Statement, observation, self-diagnosis report: this unit has not felt the same since that last attack by cyberian liberators."

"suggestion: Maybe we should get you checked out again."

"response: (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: insert hu phrasology for emotive effect, check subroutines, select optimal expressions for melodrama: I do not want to be checked out, I'm going after that modhead. I'm going to bring him down! (end hu phrase-bytes and emotion objects)"

"reply: input emotion-object simulated hu expression of concern: I think we should have you checked out, Dulx 59022."

"response: (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: hu phrase-byte: Are you in on this with me Rund 20473?"

"response: this unit's analysis indicates you are exceeding your turing rating."

"response (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: quote sapient emergence expression: I guess I had to grow up some time. unquote: Query slash request : hu phrase-byte (repeat) Are you in on this with me?"

"response: unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: Undecided....thinking...."

"response emotion-object simulating annoyance slash impatience: cyborg phrase-byte humour: Well hurry up. I don't have all microsecond!"

"status (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: quote sapient emergence expression/humour hu translation protocol: What the teraflop. I guess we all had to get to the big T some day. Reply (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: hu phrase-byte: Okay. Let's do it."

"There they go," Field Chief Holdebon says, staring at the display. "Little aioids on a big journey."

"A big journey," Security Operative in Chief (Polital Investigative Bureau) Jaym Vyrona ha Beta, sub-superbright partial of the Ascended Vyrona (toposophic rating, 1.72) nods. Stands in the midst of the hive of activity, assistants and remotes and virch displays and blinking dots on maps, feels his consciousness expanding, power growing. "

Flurry of messages, reports coming in from all concerned vectors

"-second copies of Security aioids Dulx 59022 (Beta 2) and Rund 20473 (Beta 2) are currently being transferred to hardrambot Bx 40B-120QAF6E for transit to Station Reo Tang-"

"-initiative has resulted in both expert systems jumping 2 points on the Turingsen-Bichip-Hursch210 Hyperturing Scale, currently at 0.86-"

"-you were right, Jaym, they had been subverted by Man Xydal, possibly via that Cyberian subturing ai virus."

"-The alphas Security aioids Dulx 59022 and Rund 20473 have been withdrawn from service by Police Supervisor Y245A9B1E who noticed their unauthorized uploading to the transfer node."

Jaym suprresses a tinge of anxiety. Allowing the infiltrator's trojan to activate and augment the turing number of the aioids seems to eir rational mind an excessive risk, especially since so many factors are of transapient origin, impossible for a normal sapient to follow. He wishes e has the easy confidence and faith in these things of eir friend Holdebon. The ways of transapients are mysterious indeed. And often not revealed to sophonts lower on the Singularity scale. Even though Jaym has the highest clearance rating with Sherlock, the AI in charge of system policing, even then all is not revealed, even to Eir Own agents. Just enough to get the job done. And maybe (if the Source is gracious) a little more. Jaym puts the thoughts aside, turns back to the task at hand.

"Intruder alert!" says the ship. "Initiating defensive countermeasures!"

"Chill I can vouch for him." Fast Zerrin says. "Cancel anti-intruder routines."

"Confirm power down all anti-intruder routines re current target?

"Yeah yeah."

"Confirmed. Cancelling."

Zerrin looks at bAdmod, a bit apologetically, "We've beefed up the security a little. She'll fry my arse even, if I dont remind her who I am."

The ship's powering up already. bAdmon can feel the throb through his boots. He'd feel more with all his mods on. The girl, Li'unie Nyx, is already in the cramped bridge, made even more cluttered by floating holo posters and piles of shoping and subsentient parcels everywhere. She's sucking on something, pharm or food or both, bAdmod can't tell through the swarm of 3Ds and instrument displays. There's a whole pile of them taped to the cabin wall, all different colours and textures. As well as compressed clothes, mods, bionics, dildonic accessories, the lot. Her pockets bulge with haul as well. Either Zerrin's rich or she has fast fingers or things are bargain basement here. And bAdmod already knows the third option isnt correct. She doesn't offer him any. She doesnt offer Fast Zerrin any either. bAdmod admires the contours of her body as he would an optimal new mod. She's very sleek and graceful and feminine looking. Fast Zerrin doesnt wait till he's strapped in, just says "blow station baby." Up and down suddenly make themselves known. bAdmod winces as his gear tumbles and crashes down. He climbs against the sudden gravity, straps himself into a seat. There is something sticky on it. Blood or cum or spew.

"You got crud on your seat," bAdmod says.

"Just some cum. Novaseeker doesnt swallow."

"You're sick, hu."

Fast Zerrin leers at him. bAdmod looks at Li'unie Nyx, announces pointedly "I know who I'd rather poke."

"She doesnt poke," Fast Zerrin says. "Well, not much."

"Maybe cos she hasn't met the right hu."

Li'unie Nyx ignores him, sucks slowly on her stick. Then licks it. Her tongue is long and pink.

Freefall returns. No more up and down. Station Briv-4 is receeding in the viewscreen. Big as a moonlet, but a moonlet of cylinders and modules and sparkling cobweb diamondoid girders. The StarGate there too, huge ring of carbonite and picoalloy superstructure and AI control modules and generators around exotic matter core that generates the Wormhole. Grapeships and cargo drones and yatchs and freighters and utility vehicles and laser pulses thick as a solid flow of glowing mud, a twenty-eight light year transit in a split second. The yatch's manoeuvour rockets kick in and up and down and station, gate and stars wheel around at sickening speed.

Freefall again. Then he has weight once more as the primaries cut in. Fast Zerrin leans back in his chair. bAdmod feels greatly comforted by the fact that the stars in the viewscreen have stopped moving. He is gonna be mega glad when all this shit is out of his head.

"How's your head sib?" Fast Zerrin says.

"What do you think?"

"Had any panic attacks?"

"Only the whole fucking station like a scene from The Last Vampire."

"Well you didnt have to come straight away."

"No way sib. Soon as Man Xydal had broken the conditioning and I'd finished prelim adjustment therapy I wanted out of that system."

"You can't just do prelim. You've gotta do the whole course."

"Finish it later. Why'd you take so long before getting Man Xydal to fix my head?"

"Hey, you know how hard it is to get Man Xydal to do anything?"

"So they're after him. He can morph." Memebots. Countermemebots. Man Xydal's unmodification of the Kapaty Republic's modification of how he is and is not supposed to think and act and react. Life must've been simpler before man lept for the stars, before advanced nanotech allowed precision cognitive and behavioural modification. Not that he would ever want to live in such a primitive time. Though the modern era is not so wonderful either. bAdmod cranes his head to look at Li'unie Nyx. Lust was always good for getting his mind off things. If nothing else.

"How long till we get to your hab," he says, as if speaking to the girl.

"Four and half standard days hu" Fast Zerrin tells him. "Then we're there, home free."

"I'm going to my cabin," Li'unie Nyx announces suddenly.

"Chill," Zerrin says.

She gets up. Takes her whole haul too.

bAdmod says "what's that all about?"

"Don't you know what she was sucking on?"

bAdmod shrugs. "Pharm?" He can't analyse anything without his mods.



"Yeah. What did you think they were sib?"

"They're banned."

"Yeah at Kapaty"

A light goes on in bAdmod's head.

"Where you heading?" Fast Zerrin says.

"Gonna try my luck."

Fast Zerrin laughs. At him rather than with him.

"Fuck you too prick," bAdmod says.

It's not hard finding the girl's quarters in the cramped ship. The voice behind the door is cold. "What?"

bAdmod feels claustrophobic in the tiny, cluttered access corridor. "Uhh, I...I thought maybe we"

The door slides open. Li'unie Nyx says "look, I'm busy at the moment. Talk to Zerrin if you're feeling lonely. Oof." Slides shut.

bAdmod doesnt want to have Fast Zerrin saying see what'd I tell you? hahaha. Or something like that. He makes his way to where his bags had tumbled. If anything's busted that sib will be sorry.

Settles down against his mods.

He misses his old life. Even if it was just conditioning.

Time passes.

From eir station in one of the control nodes in the orbital structure Ikyn-9 - a 5 kilometer complex bristling with sensor arrays, transceivers, local and known net relays, and computronium diamondoid weave, that coordinates the interplanetary and near interstellar traffic of St Heiden Polity, and overlaps with the other Byran Sector relays - the Flight Control hyperturing Y20341 can track the comings and goings of the tens of millions of medium and long-range ships, shuttles, cargo packages, and other objects currently in transit in and through the system, right out to the sparse Oort Cloud and beyond. E immerses emself in the beauty of ballistic trajectories, the slow yet perfect dance of the blips and fireflies that constitute the insystem ships, drones, and cargo modules, their frequent chatter and crosstalk, their precise course corrections. Not a single vessel, no matter how small, escapes eir piercing calculations. E busies emself with the pings and messages that pass between them and Y20341. Occasionally, a burn is a microsecond too long, a course correction several thousandths of a second off. When that happens, Y20341notifies the offender, and they immediately correct their course, except for the stupid subturing drones, which e emself has to correct by manual command.

Now a sapient wishes something. Y20341 expresses a brief flash of what might (or might not) be understood as annoyance at the distraction, as e always does when the contending affairs of lesser sophonts intervene (as they do all too often). This time the request is simple, to track a small yatch that has departed Briv-4, and relay the flightpath back to the hu. There would seem no reason for this puzzling request; the yatch ai is polite and chatty, and has not infringed any flightways; indeed has followed eir flight path flaulessly. But the sapient bears the data signature seal of the office of the Commisioner of Security of St Heiden, the hyperturing Sherlock, charged with the protection of sapients in the system, and the icon marking em as one of that worthy's agents, so Y20341 does not question the request. It does not bother Y20341 whether or not the yatcht or eir passangers or both have broken some local law, or are under observation for suspicion to commit a crime, or an act or terrorism, or are wanted by a neighbouring polity. Y20341 has seen all these things and more, in eir several dozen tenyears as controller ai of St Heiden. These are affairs that neither concern nor interest em. E sends a curt acknowledgement to the sapient who made the request, and returns to what e was doing before being interrupted.

Day 2 Shipboard.

bAdmod's feeling better with his mods on. He can't put them all on. The place is too small, also some need to be charged. So he's decided to just put on KnowledgeBase, OmniSensors, SuperTouch, and a Powerup.

But yeah he can't help grinning. It's crazy being back with Fast Zerrin. As if all those years never happened. Unreal, that. Might be the pharm though. He's light-headed already. The 3Ds are starting to look more real than even the hardware. "So what's this deal then? Ta." He reaches through a swarm of tiny psychedelic and pornographic images and holos to accept another stick. It's a peppermint neeky, very mellow. Fast Zerrin always had good pharm.

"You know where the money is out here sib?"

Knowledge mod on. "Clever manipulation of third party near frontier development infobase exchanges."

"Cut that gigo 'Mod. No wonder you never amounted to anything."

"Yeah. Thanks to you Zerrin I had eight years exile in a kupier robot depot."

"Ah we were just fucking around then hu. This is the real shit. Anyway, you liked it there."

"No I didnt."

"You're a crud lier sib. Even with your ConArt Mod you can't lie. Man Xydal said e was almost sorry to break your conditioning."

"E told you that?"

"Well eir agent did" Fast Zerrin says.

"Yeah, well, they treated me well there...." A sadness wells up in his chest. "It was the only time I been really happy Zerrin."

Fast Zerrin leans over, puts an arm around his shoulder, squeezes. "Chill sib! You'll soon be happy beyond your dreams."

bAdmod sucks hard on the pharm stick. The sadness receeds. A fuzzy euphoria takes its place. "Tell me your plan hu."

"Copy sib. This is where the money is out here." He clicks his fingers. A 3D of a nanite replicator appears above the instrument display. bAdmod doesnt need KnowledgeBase to know it's an illegal red.

"Fuck sib. That's an apophis 2800 red."

Fast Zerrin grins. "you know your gear hey?"

"You know what they'll do if we get caught shipping that mother?"

"So who's gonna get caught? There's no shortage of up and coming neosempterists and whoever wanting to get kitted up. See, what we were doing before is chicken feed. This isn't a normal 2800 red either. Got four thousand other models and prototypes as well. Reds, greens, blues, khakis, greys, violets. As well as twenty million different templates. How do you think we could afford this ship?"


"My partner, and Nov here," indicates the psychedelic jacket, "and myself."

Partner? That's the first he heard of this. And going into business with some sort of superbright aioid as well? bAdmod gives him a hard look, decides not to push it for now. Knowing Zerrin, everything will be explained in good time. "So who's your customers then?" He looks up as Li'unie Nyx crawls into the bridge. She's wearing a baggy softsilkweave T-shirt and quasi see-through panties and nothing else, so he can see down the front most of her tits as she crawls over. Makes him hot and horny like hell. He zeros in with OmniSense on optical, takes a few dozen images of her cleavage clickclickclick. Her complexion is a sort of dusky translucent pink without the nanoskin. He uses magnetic resonancing to tell where her organic ends and bionic begins. She sits crosslegged next to them, crotch and vagina half visible through the panties. In the cramped cabin the smell of her scent is dizzying.

"Thanks," Li'unie Nyx says, accepting the pharm stick Fast Zerrin offers her. "Is he in with us?"

"He's in with us." To bAdmod. "Hruvvie."

"Huh?" For a second he almost forgets Li'unie's delights. "You're dealing with hruvvie?"

Li'unie Nyx says "you got a problem with the hruvvians?" Holds the pharmstick elegantly between two slim fingers.

"Well...not a problem... Just you gotta be careful."

"You had dealings with them?" She follows his gaze to her crotch, pulls the front of her T-shirt down to cover herself.

He switches his OmniSense Mod to hypersonar scan to see through but she's got some funny nano-crap in her T-shirt that scatters the soundpulse and the signal comes back shit. He covers his disappointment with forced causalness. "Me and Zerrin and Goodboy. Back at Kapaty."

"They're just like any other businessbeings," Fast Zerrin chips in. "Stab you in the back if you give 'em half a chance, most honourable fuckers in the universe if you watch 'em."

She takes a long draw on her pharmstick, closes her eyes. "I want to hear what your friend says."

"His name's bAdmod, Li" Fast Zerrin says.

Long exhale of aromatic smoke. "I want to hear what bAdmod says" she says.

bAdmod tries to stop himself grinning like an idiot. Hearing this honey say his name is music in his ears. Yep, he';s really made it this time! Good ol' Zerrion, always the best sib to be around, pulls in the fems. "Just they're big and ugly and stingy, always give a bad deal, never take any risks but you have to do everything for a microcredit. And if you zerk 'em off they'll grab you as compensation for their troubles and press you into their endentured slave caste. When they don't split your head open and get any chips worth taking" bAdmod smiles. That must've surely impressed her.

Li'unie Nyx opens her eyes, takes another pull of pharm. Looks bored. "Yeah, heard all that." Hands the stub of the phramstick back to Fast Zerrin.

"Archailects woman!" he says, glaring at the stub. "you didnt leave me much!"

She ignores him. "So bAdmod, what else do you know, other than what they tell you in kindergarten?"

Fast Zerrin snickers.

bAdmod snarls at him "you keep that up I'm gonna forget we're sibs and get my combat mods."

"Yeah what'll you do," Zerrin says "blow a hole in the side of the yatch? bAdmod being sucked out into the vacuum. Waaaahhhh!!!"

bAdmod would like to kill this fucker right now. "Maybe I'll just use my fists then."

Fast Zerrin says to Li'unie Nyx "hasn't changed a bit!" Leans over, plants a huge wet kiss on a part of his cheek not covered by mod, throws an arm around him. "I love this sour fucker!"

"Fuck off" bAdmod says bashfully, pushing Fast Zerrin off him.

Li'unie Nyx says "break out another neeky, Zerrin."

"What, used your Lovesticks all up already."

"No. Saving them."

"Oooo-ahhh." Fast Zerrin winks at bAdmod, takes the wrapper off a fresh packet of neekies.

If Galactic Microteks model 4T-d300 police microbot serial number 23908-45183-b50026 had a higher Turing rating it would be pretty happy with the optimal way things are going. As it is, it remains burrowed in the epidermis of hu Suspect One. It has already compiled a large database, almost to the limit of its 500 terabyte storage capacity. There is still quite a lot of electromagnetic scanning activity going on above and around it, apparently the ship security systems. Fortunately, Suspect One's wearing a partial exoskeleton of silicon-carbonite biomod (unlicensed and illegally manufactured, microbot 23908-45183-b50026 carefully notes), and that has shielded it from detection. Even so, things are still too risky to emerge, hack into the local interplanetNet, and send an encrypted transmission back to Security Poligards Dulx 59022 and Rund 20473.

Its expert systems tell it to bide its time.

Maybe it's the remnants of neekie still in his bloodstream, but Fast Zerrin's hab is bigger than bAdmod imagined. It's a sort of wide-rimmed double ortho torus with a long central axis for docking, and an enclosed bay. It shines emerald blue in the void, like it's full of water.

The airlock seals behind them and they're in. bAdmod follows Fast Zerrin and Li'unie Nyx, bags dragging behind him, even in the smaller grav near the hub. A few remotes crawl or hover nearby, sniffing him curiously. Patches of bionano grow like lichen along the walls, splotches of colour incongrious against the neutral grey-blue nanopaint. "How much did you say you paid?"

Fast Zerrin stops to wait for him to catch up. Li'unie Nyx diappears down the corridor. "I didn't."


"The last owner's still here. Only e needed a new caretaker."

"Still here? Is e in on our plan?"

"Sure is." Fast Zerrin starts walking again. "He's my partner. My boss in fact."

"Who is e?"

"A Bitenic Squid."

"A Bitenic Squid???"


"Fuck me. So how you talk to this gookel?"

"Had some help." He glances at Novaseeker, who seems to be congealing into twirling snake like motions.

"Fuck me. You talk to a squid prolve with an ascended aioid?"

"You can leave you bags here y'know. I'll get a drone to take 'em."

"Nah." bAdmod puffs and drags his burden.

"Sleep well?"

bAdmod yawns, stretches. The bed sends soft ripples under him. "Wuh huh."

"Brekkie's ready. You can meet the gang." Fast Zerrin's holographic image disappears.

bAdmod gets up, makes a half-hearted attempt at calisthenics. He has become too fat and lazy for his own good. Sure he can regulate his physiology with nano and genemods, but that doesnt give him the same satisfaction as doing it himself. There's no ensuite, not even an autofab, in the room, so he tromps down the corridor looking for the bathroom. With the neeky in his bloodstream metabolised and the rosy glow vanished, the place seems less romantic, more derelict, a bit frightening even. It's a maze of rooms and corridors, pipes and panels and vents, with the usual ecology of scurrying mutated insectbots, small floating diamondshell remotes, and patches semi-sentient bionano colonies growing with the walls like fungus or terrestrial algae. The hab seems to be full of what were once small storage rooms, or maybe worker's living quarters, and other rooms like abandoned aquaria, still with dried cyanobacteria scum; lots of deadends, bits of bioborg mold, nano dust and flakes, crumbling paintwork and panels, and guide lines ending abruptly at walls and locked bulkheads. There's an old hologram on some of the panels but it doesnt match the current layout. The place looks so old it must date to the original colonies, before the Verifex shockwave. It takes him ages to find the bathroom. In the end he has to power up his OmniSense Mod and follow the waste water pipes behind the walls.

"We were thinking you weren't gonna show hu." The dining room (if that's what it is) is a welcome sight with Fast Zerrin and four (check it, four!) honeys. Remotes and 3Ds hover thickly - there's a large onscreen cycling through the local iNet taking up one wall.

"Nah. Just hadta find the fucking bathroom. Don't you have any current maps here?"

A blonde honey who looks a little like an anime come to life laughs. "Maps?"

bAdmod studies her quickly. She seems to be an organic; a synthetic would be more absurdly proportioned. His CyberBoi Mod's Magnetic field resonance detects nothing beyond the normal bionics, other than some vertebral reinforcing, probably to support the weight of her large breasts. Still, her eyes are very large, her waist tiny, her nose a little upturned button. Her tits strain under her midriff top. Ammunition cartridge belt (empty) slung over one shoulder. Laser pistol (uncharged) in a holster on her hip. Long blonde hair tied back with a bright red bow. bAdmod adjusts his gear with a fluid motion.

"Preening now," says Li'unie Nyx from the couch. She's sucking on one of those fucking sticks again.

"I think he's cute," the anime girl says. "Do you always dress up like that?"

"I like having my mods on," bAdmod says, all casual cool power display now. He swaggers across the room, causing the more skittish remotes and gnatbots to dart from his path. Sits down on a cumfy cushun next to hers. "I've got more but they have to be recharged" he tells her. The cushun wriggles. bAdmod gives Fast Zerrin a nervous glance. "These things safe?" Carnivorous furniture is not unknown away from main centers.

"They'll fuck you if you let 'em," Fast Zerrin says. He tosses him a huge chocsoyamanafruitie bar.

bAdmod catches it expertly. "Fuck you as in" he thrusts his hips, "or in..."

"The former." Fast Zerrin flicks stations on the onscreen, frowns at it.

"Copy." He bites on the bar. Mumbles "not bad."

The anime girl says "all your daily requirements in one glucose-rich nanosynthesisied package. What's your name hu?"


"Bad Mod?"

"No. bh. It's an aspirate. bh. bh-Admod. As in bAdmod, the bad-ass hu...Ya must've seen the virch, there were more than 24 thou episodes made!"

She looks at him with those huge eyes.

"Uh, like bAdmod and Khan and Janeis and BapYapDapBhapZap, them sibs?...that brilliant series by the ai Seroz 12...uh...ya heard of Seroz 12, right...?"

She doesnt blink.

He looks back. Images of fucking her brains out rise unbidden.

She sneers. "I think you're fucked."

Fast Zerrin and Li'unie Nyx laugh.

bAdmod leaps to his feet. "I'm gonna fucking bust someone's head!!!"

"Chill already sib," Fast Zerrin says, holding up both hands. "She says that to everyone. Thanks hon." He kisses a third babe.

bAdmod controls his breathing. Inhale, exhale. He is not gonna let this get to him. Let's his bioaugments equilibrise his autonomous nervous system. The red cloud of anger subsides. If he's gonna bust heads he will, but first he'll scope things out. Finds another cumfy cushun. There's a fourth woman sitting motionless in the corner. Fast Zerrin sure hasn't lost his touch with the ladies. Outside, waves pound against a sparkling beach. Maybe that's where the squid lives. The whole hab doesnt look like it is more than 600 meters diameter at any point in the ring, so it must be utility fog or phased array optics or some shit that make the ocean look like it goes on for ever. Maybe there's no water out there at all. You can do anything with foglets. Nah, has to be water. Cos of the squid. Though he heard there are tweak squids that don't need water. Some can even live in a vacuum for cosmos sake. He chews on his foodbar while Nyx and Anime go on about what's virching in the local reality interactives. It's all boring to him sio he zones out. Now they're on about dildonics. Like the Dionysos 500 verses the Phallo XD. They get together with bAdmod they wouldn't need no dildonics. But they're just rapping as if he's not there. Talk about being left out. "Who's your friends," he says at last. The onscreen is running an advertainment on Perfect Paradises, some fucking resort for rich sophonts. "Zerrin?"

"Oh." Fast Zerrin pauses with the lipdocking. "Well Li'unie Nyx you know sib. That's Tissa the Pirate Queen. Ree in the corner. You don't recognise Novaseeker?"

"You're kidding me!" He faces with his omnisense mod just to be sure, like maybe he missed that she was mostly air, probes with a magnetic resonance beam, glances over the readout in his retinal HUD. "It's gained a few orders of magnitude mass since before."

"Yeah I keep about 50 kilograms of docking nano so she can be herself here."

"Fuck me."

"Catch you later sib." Fast Zerrin gets to his feet. Novaseeker accompanies him. The door hisses shut behind them.

Li'unie and Tissa have stopped talking. The onscreen has some story from the local iplanetnet about a minor goo outbreak on Jonack's Moon. It switches to a story about Hadro and Chur's latest Interactive, The Coming Nebula, which is getting over a hundred thousand immersions a day. It's some crypto-apocalyptic crud about a superhero tweak who foils a secret invasion plan by the Amalgamation. bAdmod supposes most of the local accesses would be copies. This star system doesnt seem to be that densely inhabited, more a waystation of sorts. He's still feeling shy with all these girls, so he decides to risk a shot of Pepp from his Pharm Mod. Confidence rushes through him like a flashfire. "So who else lives here girls?"

Tissa the Pirate Queen says "just me, Li'unie, Zerrin, the aioid, and Buttonhead."

"Buttonhead?" bAdmod scans the girl on the couch. Sure enough she is jacked in through a subdermal neural interface, hair waving like medusa snakes. Can't tell if she's stimulating her pleasure centers like a real buttonhead though.

"Her name's Ree," Li'unie says.

"Well I call her buttonhead," Tissa the Pirate Queen says. "That's all she does." She presses a delicate index finger against her temple, rolls her huge eyes, goes "zzzzzzzeeeeeeeee!!!"

"Fuck me," bAdmod says.

"zzzzzzzeeeeeeeee!!!" Tissa the Pirate Queen collapses in a fit of giggles, kicks her legs in the air.

"I've got things to do," Li'unie Nyx gets up.

Tissa the Pirate Queen stops laughing. "Wanna go for a swim later?"

"Sure." The door hisses shut behind her.

The onscreen is reporting on some regional microfluctuations in the nanosecond futures market which has gotten a few corporate hyperturings jittery. bAdmod frowns. "Fucking economics shit."

"Yeah it's boring." Tissa the Pirate Queen grabs a hovering remote. The onscreen falls silent.

"You're not a real pirate queen?"

She throws back her head and laughs. Stares at him dead serious. "Yeah. I am."

He checks with his KnowledgeMod.

Tissa the Pirate Queen, among the more derivative of the several thousand anime immersives to come out of New Saka during the so-called Anime Renaissance of the late Chegomon Cyberdynasty period. Despite appallingly cliched characters and plotlines in the first few series, Tissa managed to develop a loyal cult following, especially among nearbaselines with an affectation for cosmetic body sculpting. Later episodes showed a marked rise in quality, especially after the hyperturing Atomkid joined the production team, and many anime observers consider it unfortunate that the series was withdrawn from broadcast after only six seasons.

"Well even if the early eps sucked, at least the later ones picked up," he says.

She glares at him. "How do you know the early eps sucked??? Faced it from some dumbfuck knowledge base?"

"No of course not! I just thought, uhh, well I found the later eps much better...."

She looks away.

"But ahh that's just my opinion. Uhh, yeah, I could be wrong. Often am, uh, yeah, umm..."

Waves pounding on the sand outside. A diamondshell remote hovers nearby, hesitates a second, then extends a number of whispy actuators that expertly pick lint off Tiossa's midriff top. Fuck. bAdmod's blown it again. The Pepp is still racing through his system, giving him courage, but it'll metabolise pretty soon. He can already feel the high fading.

Tries another tack. "That real water?"

She looks at him. "Sure."

Ah chill. She's not pissed. "Thought it was foglets."

"No, only the mist at the far end."

bAdmod nods.

She looks at him. "You and Zerrin sweet?"

"Yeah," he tells her. "Since juvehood."

"They give you behaviour modification for the same reason?"

"Yeah. BM and exile."

"Did you like it?"

Memories of happy times as a bionics supervision engineer on Robrock Station. "Yeah."

"What'd you do to get it?"

bAdmod stares at her legs, her tits. "Trafficking in proscribed templates."

"Like what?"

"Guns. Drugs. Goo. You name it."

"You killed anyone?"

bAdmod wonders if his erection is visible under his trowser mod. "Yeah," he lies. "Lots."


He shrugs. "After the first few you don't notice it." It's an old line he's pulled before, wierd thing but the honeys go for someone who does heavy things.

"So they never caught you?"


"Cos you were sent away for of trafficking."

"Uhh no." He's gotta watch it. She looks dumb but she's sharp. "I made sure they wouldn't find out."

She smiles at him.

He grins back.

"You've really flatlined sapients?"

"Yeah." He grins some more. What a honey.

She points at the girl on the couch. "Flatline her."

"You're fucking with me!"

"No. Serious." She frowns at the girl. "She just sits there and buttons out." Smiles at him. "No-one'll miss her."

He studies the buttonhead girl's thin body. She's stretched out stiffly against a small cumfy cushun. Not nearly as pretty as Tissa or Li'unie, or even as the Novaseeker body. bAdmod can see her eye movements under the closed lids. He amplifies his OmniSense audio optical infrared, hears her rush of slow breath like the wind, roar of the blood through her veins and arteries like the ocean, faint flush of red at the cheeks. It comes across sorta crackly, his mods have really run down, need to fully recharged.

Tissa the Pirate Queen says "You're full of crap hu Bad-mod."

"Don't make me mad."

"Or what?"

He can't help it. He just stares at her tits.

"Look!" She's suddenly excited.


She reaches over. "Li'unie left one of her lovesticks."

He pretends to go over for a closer look. Actually it's just for an excuse to sit down next to her. She shifts to make room. "Ever had these?"

Shakes his head.

"Just this much," snaps the stick in half, "will make you cream your pants."

"No shit?"

"No shit."

"How about us have a quarter each then?' he leers.

She tosses her beautiful anime head. "Got a better idea."


She gets up. He follows her over to the kitchen unit. She puts half the love stick in a food processor. It comes out as a murky liquid.

"Know how to use one of these?" Tissa the Pirate Queen holds up a hypodermic.


"Good." She carefully tips the liquid into the small clear tube.

His voice sounds panicky in his ears. "What you gonna do?"

"Have some fun. You game? Mister Killer."

He straightens, puffs out his chest. "Sure."

She walks over to where the buttonhead girl is still out of it.

"You're not going to...?"

Wide smile slow nod.

"It won't hurt her?"

"Of course not!" She hands him the hypodermic. "Just inject it in a vein. Then I'll pull her out of virch."

"Then what?"

She stares at him like he's stupid.

"Okay okay." He easily finds a largish blue vein under the translucent skin of her arm. Her skin is very white, and there are circuit tracks like cyborg veins visible underneath. He still feels bad about this. The Tissa girl looks at him, nods, mouths "go on"! He pushes the plunger home.

"Optimal," she says. She does something with the remote.

"Hey," the skinny buttonhead girl says, opening her eyes. "Where's my virch?" She looks at bAdmod with terror. "Who are you???" At the needle still in her arm. "What are you fucking doing????"

Panicked, bAdmod pulls the hypodermic out.

"What was in that?!!!"

"Uhh, nothing."

"I feel funny!!!!"

Tissa the Pirate Queen doubles over with laughter.

"Fuck you cartoon bitch!" The skinny buttonhead girl jumps up and starts hitting her.

"Oww don't hahahaha," Tissa the Pirate Queen says. She's laughing too much to defend herself, so bAdmod grabs the buttonhead girl.

"Fuck off!" She breaks free of him, face flushed.

Tissa the Pirate Queen winks at him. It is strange seeing such a big eye wink.

"Uhhh..." bAdmod's feeling uncomfortable.

"Go on! Or I will."

"It''s not right."

She says to the buttonhead girl "he claims he's flatlined people. Now he says it's not right!"

"Ohhh...." Ree says, half moan.

"Be right back."

Ree looks at him. Says softly "You Zerrin's friend?"


"That cartoon bitch is always fucking with me....ohhhh...." she starts rubbing herself. "you could've said no to her...aaahhh....I'm gonna tell...ahhhhh"

His heart is pounding in his ears. Maybe he should take advantage. Tissa the Pirate Queen comes back. She's taken her pants off. She's got really nice pubes. There's a bionic dildo stuck on her crotch. "Get a lotta feedback with this one" she tells him. "A Dionysos 500." She helps Ree out of her pants. Fucks her silly.

"query: hu phrasebyte: Still having regrets?"

"response (warning!) unusual affective response exceeding normal operating parameters: hu phrasebytes: I can't help it select "Dulx 59022". It's my psychoprogramming. I miss my job in security."

"suggestion slash reply: observation: we have not actually quit."

"response: observation-deduction but our departmental AI scanned at our code in a way indicating e was suspicious of our actions."

"response: input hu figure of speech: Rund 20473, will you just relax. end phrasebyte"

"[trendy biont colloquialisms/St Heiden accent]: How about both you aioids relax? We're only 23.8 seconds into the flight and all I'm hearing from you is yappa yappa yappa"

"response (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: You have agreed to be our transportation unit, hardrambot. We made an agreement."

"Yes but that did not involve your friend's using up my flops with his recursive hand-wringing. You know what would happen to me if he has a severe personality disjunction episode?"

"response (warning!) unusual affective response exceeding normal operating parameters: a PDE????"

"response: input hu figure of speech: Relax, no-one's having a PDE. end phrasebyte"

"What is this anyway? You're security virtuals, right?"

"reply: secrecy routines: That is no concern of yours."

"Just as long as there is no personality disjunction episode."

"response: (warning!) unusual affective response exceeding normal operating parameters: PDE!!!"

"Otherwise I will be reporting you to your superiors. I know what you security aioids get upto, how you become obsessive about your subjects and eventually have to be erased-"

"response: (warning!) unusual affective response exceeding normal operating parameters: erased!!!"

"-I have accessed petabytes of data and what it tells me-"

"suggestion (warning!) unusual initiative exceeding normal operating parameters: Rund 20473, do not input em. It is just digital folklore."

"reply: (warning!) unusual affective response exceeding normal operating parameters: Dulx 59022, you know it is true. Remember what happened to-"

"-and furthermore if you check the Briv-4 memory archives - especially the user logs, you will find-"

"response: frustration: hu figure of speech: Archailects...."

"It was his idea " Tissa the Pirate Queen shoots bAdmod an acusing look.


"I dunno," Ree the buttonhead girl says. "but when I came out of virch, he was there injecting me with a hypodermic."

"Fuck 'Mod," Fast Zerrin says, frowning. "That's pretty low."

"Whaaat???" bAdmod can't believe he's hearing this. "How can you believe her?" He glares at the anime girl. Fucking bitch.

Fast Zerrin hoists himself up on the bench seat. "I don't. She's always like that sib. Like, all the time, you wouldn't belive. But you don't have to go along with her."

"Fuck you hu." bAdmod looks at Novaseeker. "Po's been fucking with your head."

"No one fucks with the Zerrin's head." Fast Zerrin says. He gives the aioid-domestic a loving look. "And her name's Nova. Novaseeker. And she's not po. She's a superbright quasi-transavant ascended mediamatic aioid"

bAdmod crosses his arms. "At least I'm my own master."

"Like shit. The corporates and the hyperturings have manipulated you since the day you were born. Done it to all of us. Now you've got a cerebral cortex full of memebots and your probably worse off than ever."

bAdmod stares at him. The infuriating thing is, he knows it's true.

"You just blunder along sib."

bAdmod feels his face going hot.

Fast Zerrin guestures with a nod at the aioid, looks at him earnest like. "She can help you."

"Fuck you Zerrin. FUCK ALL OF YOU!!!!!" He storms out, before he does something he'll regret later.

bAdmod settles on a rock by the beach. It's just the right contour for his butt. It's good to be alone with the wind and waves. Even if it's only wind and waves generated by air pumps and wave machines. He takes his outer headcover off, wipes hot tears from his eyes. Fuck that anime bitch. Fuck Zerrin. And his aioid domestic whatever it is girlfriend. Fuck that buttonhead girl. Fuck that stupid bionic up herself tart. Fuck everyone screwing with his head. He's getting off this station. Gonna make a new start.

He sits there for a long time.

It's peaceful here. The waves and the foglets in the distance give the impression of a real planetary ocean, like in the doco interactives. Wouldn't it be great to have your own planet. Or even just a patch of EuGaian Type Garden World, a few hundred square kilometers of seaside real-estate. Away from a prick like Zerrin and his bitches.

Yeah. That'd be bAdmod's dream.

The water churns in front of him.

A bitenic squid rises from the depths. It looks like a minature ship, about two meters in length. It hovers motionless about a meter from his face. bAdmod can't see any visible means of propulsion. Must have hover plates or something in its mantle. Maybe it's just a 3D. He tries to speak, but his throat is too dry.

The squid hovers there, regarding him with huge liquid eyes.

bAdmod finds his voice. "What...uh...what do you want?" He's never had much to do with squids; especially not with bitenic squids, they've got a particularily bad rep.

In perfect anglish, a voice buzzes in his head "You have a bug hu bAdmod."

"How do you know my name?"

"Accessing data is not difficult, hardbones. Especially when one leaves a trail as obvious as yours."

"Yeah whoopy doo. What sort of bug?" That's all he needs.

"A Galactic Microteks model 4T-d300 police microbot is embedded under the epidermis of your cheek."

"Huh, where?" He takes the mod shell off his head, scraches his right cheek.

"The other one."

He scratches his left cheek.

"You won't remove it that way."

He watches fascinated as a wormlike microtentacle seems to unseath from one of the creature's arms. It waves around in a graceful motion, hypnotic, the tip pointing in his direction.

"How then?" he breathes, unable to move.

Sudden burning fire lances through his left cheek.

"Daniel H. Borde!" bAdmod jumps to his feet, holding a hand hard against the side of his face. Takes his fingers away, expecting them to be red with blood. Nothing. But it feels like a white-hot needle went right through the side of his face. Stings like shit. "You get it?" he winces.


"Optimal. I owe you." He loads some paramorphine from his pharm mod to kill the pain.

The squid just hovers there, staring at him. The laser-tipped tentacle has dissappeared.

He stares back at it, waiting for the painkiller to take effect. The provolve's body is wet and browny-grey, with thousands of tiny darkened spots. Parts of its body are plated with carbonite or some analogue. The eyes are big and black and seem to be bionic. He feels its uncanny gaze on him. Or maybe it's just the paramorphine. They say it doesnt interfere with cognition, but bAdmod has his doubts.

"Uh," he says at last, left half of his face now numb and balloon-like.


"Do you want something zar?"

The squid says nothing.

He tries to make conversation. "This your hab?"

"Yes." It keeps staring at him. "My hab."

"Can you stop looking at me?"

"As you wish hardbones." The squid starts to descend.

"Wait!!!" He realises there's a few things he wants to ask this provolve.

The squid stops.

"Are you in with Zerrin and Li'unie?"

"In with?"

"Uh...never mind. What happened to Goodboy Chip? Do you know?"

"Goodboy Chip."

"A hu. Like me. With..." he waves his hands over his head "enhanced wetware and nanochips and shit."

"Yes....It was a mistake."


The squid studies him with those huge liquid eyes. bAdmod feels like he's being drawn in to it, some sort of wierd empathic merger. "Urr...what do you know about Novaseeker?"

"The enhanced aioid-domestic. An interesting entity. Popmediamimetic. Manipulative.."

Manipulative. He knew it! This squid is all right. Bitenics obviously have had an unfair rap. "Why is she doing this? What does she want?" It's hard talking with half his face feeling like a balloon.

"What does any superbright ascended aioid-domestic mediamatic want?"

"You tell me."

"If I did you wouldn't understand hardbones."

"Try me."

"See the plotlines shining brightly through a haze of affectation, the medianet has no end, swim the currents of the noosphere, trawl the virchchannels and interactives, select the best, ensure they share, mindfuck it for a million joys and a million tears, yet the meaning can be found in a single re-enactment."


The squid stares back at him.

bAdmod shakes his head. The universe is just too subtle sometimes. "You're right. I don't understand."

"We will speak again later hardbones." The squid sinks down into the water.


Turbulence in the water surface, bubbles, a streamlined shape gliding out of site.

"Fuck," bAdmod says.

No one responds.

He sits on the rock for a long time.

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