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Fiction snippet: A Small Dose Of The Flu

Written somewhere over Greenland, flying from the UK to San Francisco

Someone once called it “The Government’s Escape Rocket”. The glass tower of St Mary’s Axe had twisted its way up the sky, green and blue glass in a double helix of corporate DNA. These days the glass was broken and shattered, littering the streets, with shards still falling on the armoured umbrellas. The sensible folk stayed well away, in their guarded enclaves up West.

But some people still came here, ready to trading something someone wanted for something of value.

This time it was blood diamonds, soaked in the blood of the millions of victims of ethnic struggles in central Africa. They were illegal to trade in any civilised country – which why this deal was going down in the cut-throat streets of the City of London. You could buy anything here, from a few euros worth of badly-cut charlie, to the soul of the CEO of one of the Global 2000. A handful of illegal diamonds in exchange for a thimbleful of extremely illegal nanotech was just another deal for the alexes in their white socks. There wasn’t much else for them to do now that the smart money had moved to Bratislava and the Shenzen Autonomous Zone.

“Pigeon array in place?”

Three drab birds flapped their way from one tree to another. The cameras behind their beady little eyes ran through yet another set of diagnostic software. Overhead a pair of seagulls circled, the radar in their bellies watching every movement, ready to alert a high-resolution peregrine falcon stationed halfway up a decaying office block in the middle of Minories.

A Porsche SUV rolled down Aldwych. Its dark armoured windows pretended to hide secrets, secrets that expected the world to be kept in the dark. This time we were going to illuminate them. As it passed just another white Transit van, one of my men pressed a button.

No explosion – at least not visibly. The van’s sensor array sprung into electronic life, bathing the SUV in terawave radiation. From my chair in the boarded up shop, bathed in the blue glow of OLED screens, I heard the hum of the disc array, as the sensors all along the street began to flood our systems with data.

“Three men. Two armed. Probably with H&K ceramic machine pistols.”

“I get a couple of steel attaché cases.”

“Refine the data on those.”

“Looks like someone is trying to run interference. Literally. There’s a Faraday cage in their hooked up to a radio. All I’m getting is some pirate station’s take on East London bangla rap. Good beat, too. I’m grabbing MP3s. But that’s all I’m going to get.”

“Shall we go for neutrino scan?”

“Anyone want to authorise the chit for it? We’ve got the budget.”

“I’ll sign – just fire off the bugger.”

The lights brightened for a second or two while the operations team took the neutrino generator’s capacitors off-line. Somewhere inside a grey box magnetic fields began to wring a small star out of the zero point field. The star wasn’t there for long - just for a nanosecond. It was enough time to collimate a neutrino-beam and to fire it through the cases.


“Any chance of a geographic?”

“The crystalline scatter looks like Ivory Coast. I could refine the impurities data to tell you just which drift, but I think we’ve got enough to go on here.”

“Pigeon shit ‘em?”

My charges were ready, fully loaded with the prerequisites. Three cups of corn this morning, and a nip of exlax. I’d turned off a couple of reflexes, before letting them into the sky. I may be just a Pigeon Handler in the Met’s Technology Control Squad, but I know better than to leave myself with a cage to clean…

I sent the first instruction, and the birds flocked out of the trees, drawing along a couple of naturals that must have wondered where the cat was.

I do know where this going, and some of the changes I need to make to what I've written so far...



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2004 11:12 pm (UTC)
I like this: the flippancy and the post-cyberpunk (pigeonpunk!) punchiness. And some pirate station’s take on East London bangla rap. Good beat, too. I’m grabbing MP3s.. Nicely pragmatic.

Sep. 12th, 2004 12:41 pm (UTC)
Sep. 8th, 2004 04:40 am (UTC)
Cool. I'm looking out at that office block on the Minories (from mine on Crosswall) as I type.

One little geographical carp... "A Porsche SUV rolled down Aldwych."... I assume that you meant "Aldgate"
Sep. 12th, 2004 12:34 pm (UTC)
Yup, I did - brain/keyboard interface error...
Sep. 8th, 2004 05:15 am (UTC)

But WTF is "terawave radiation"? Or is that what you get out of phased interositer arrays?
Sep. 8th, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC)
That'd be terahertz radiation. Like radiowaves or microwaves, but Funkier.

A nice bit of story, that.

(although I think there's a "Faraday cage in there"...)
Sep. 12th, 2004 12:34 pm (UTC)
Yup. Just futzing the jargon a bit...
Sep. 12th, 2004 12:42 pm (UTC)
And, oops.
Sep. 12th, 2004 02:04 pm (UTC)
the US military - and Intel - have talked about terawave cameras to see through walls...
Sep. 13th, 2004 12:01 am (UTC)
And some of us actually do terrawave astronomy - though we tend to make it sound more prosaic by calling it the far-infrared.
Sep. 8th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC)
I like it! Def more. And hey, hoping to hear from you soon and hang out while you are still in town!!!
Sep. 8th, 2004 06:38 pm (UTC)
Drawn here from Warren Ellis's Die Puny Humans.

Great start, are you writing it "on the fly", or do you have this piece plotted out?
Sep. 12th, 2004 12:41 pm (UTC)
Bit of both.

The "pigeons as eyes" thing has been knocking around since the early nineties and too much coffee with Charlie Stross - originally it was in a aborted story involving a tanker of liquid kerosene, an aqualung of LOx, and some super glue. Oh, and a big explosion.

But that wasn't going anywhere, so I shoehorned it into a recurring set of ideas about the police trying to keep the lid on the Singularity (and, as I wrote the last story first, failing).

I'm aiming to finish Tygers in the next month or two, and send it off on the submiussion round, and then finish this one (with the P=NP nanobot driven Quantum Oracle from the nuked remains of Cambridge., and the big fight scene between the bad guys and some uplifted cop rats in the deserted tunnels of a decaying Bank tube station)
Sep. 12th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )