The difference between virtuality and life is very simple. In a construct you know everything is being run by an all-powerful machine. Reality doesn’t offer this assurance, so it’s very easy to develop the mistaken impression that you’re in control.
– Credited to an Ephemeralist prophet
Date: 1st October, 2177
Mood: Confused and bored. DIY home repairs are not what I signed up for, and all this study is making my head swim!
Outfit: Recently we’ve been redecorating the bottom level of Ragut’s warehouse, which is gonna be our new base, so I’m in these overalls I picked up cheap at J Lo, which is some fashion brand started by a z-list Oil Age starlet. No one knows how her brand lasted a hundred years but if you wanna hazard a guess I’d say it’s because her clothes have lots of arse space, which was a big thing back when sugar was still cheap and genetic modification was illegal (can you imagine!?) When you’re lugging crates and bossing the boys around and making claims to the spare toilet, you need to be wearing pants and they need a big arse. So there I a in my oversized overalls, crop top, skin dusked down to hide the dust, and more than enough oil to clean my entire arsenal. It’s dirty work down here in Ragut’s basement, but once it’s carved out we get our own rooms and a bit of breathing space. So it’s worth getting dirty for!
News: I’ve been in hospital for a week watching talent shows through one eye, and Pops has been in hospital for three weeks watching reruns of his life flashing before his eyes, which has gotta be even more boring than the news he hasn’t been watching, so for once I’ve been spared his lectures about corporate power and injustice and all manner of other old-fashioned ideas. So I don’t know what’s been happening outside our little nest. Yay!
Dear Diary! Pops came out of hospital a few days ago after a couple of weeks of convalescence, with a shiny new cyberleg in place of that tattered old fleshy thing he had hanging off there, which I guess means we will get half as many complaints about his flakey knees, and straight away he was bossing everyone around again with orders about how to set up our new hideout and what we’re gonna do about Alt and Lima and stuff. I guess we paid for a slightly cheaper intensive care unit so they must have had him dosed up on old-fashioned narcotics, because I could swear most of his behavior is classic narcotic withdrawal. But then, he’s such a grumpy old beast that it’s kind of hard to tell whether he’s in withdrawal or just being an old man. He got us all studying this old-fashioned thing called “Dialectical Materialism” because he says it’s the idea that grumpy old men like him had before the funky young scientist chicks of the solar age invented cyberware and we all stopped worrying about justice and equality and stuff. Can you believe that there were once beardy old men like Pops – who, to his credit (and I only credit him very rarely, not even when he buys me a drink, which I’m usually really strict about repaying because boys always get the impression I’m gonna put out just because they bought me some fizzy stuff I don’t even like, which is so ick, but that’s not a problem with Pops because he’s about 2 centuries too old to think about gross things like that, and that’s one of the reasons I really trust him) doesn’t have a beard – who wrote whole books about the political consequences of different classes of people disagreeing with each other about who should be richer and who should own the spanners? Weird, right? But the beardiest of them all, this European dude called Marx, had this idea that all human societies are progressing through stages towards utopia. Of course because he was an Oil Age beardy dude he thought that utopia would be some kind of weird world where all the men worked in factories with big oil-powered machines and were bossed around by old beardy men, and he didn’t realize that utopia would actually be a world where young chicks with boosted adrenal systems could do whatever they wanted because they had big guns and digital targeting systems in their retina. Case in point: most of those beardy guys seem to have ended up getting themselves shot, except one less beardy one who got ice-picked to death. But points for trying, I guess.
But it looks like Lima and whatever crew he was rolling with over in the Inca mountains had some kind of new theory that was like a reboot of this dumb beardy materialism, which they call “Dialectical Ephemeralism” (the e-word means not really being here or something, which I guess applies to Lima since he was off in the clouds cyber-psychotic before we got to him, and now he’s dead). This “Dialectical Ephemeralism” is like the same idea of society going through stages to a utopia, but the utopia is some kind of transhumanist transsubstantiation (that’s more trans than a bar in District 65!) where people leave their bodies behind and live in the net, and their minds are all merged together, except for a few crazies like Lima who managed to get to be in charge. Which is like plus ca meme plus ce change, or however you would say that in French. And that’s what we killed back there in D70, and we don’t know for sure but Ghost says there were huge amounts of information going in and out of the hospital when we raided it, and maybe this was something to do with transsubstantiated minds. But we don’t know.
We only worked this stuff out this week though, because we’ve been busy. Coyote has been busy shifting guns and drugs and bits of cyberware; Ghost has been helping him. Pops has been busy not dying, because he was so wrecked from the siege while we waited for Alt that he had to get emergency trauma surgery. Two weeks in ICU, then a week in my bed (I had to sleep on the couch! Gross!) and now he’s up and grumbling again like he always used to, though his new leg is very shiny and chrome, and he feels violated or something but at least one of his knees works now. I spent a week in recovery too, and got a new eye, and some boosterware that they put in while I was under. Alt dropped the 15k nuyen for the job and we used most of that to patch up me and Pops, and to pay some dodgy dude in D69 to run a set of nanoscanners over all the books we lifted from Lima’s lair. That’s how we found out about Lima’s weird political gig. Some of the books were diaries, some were history books, and because the diaries were in Spanish only Pops could read them. So the rest of the books were divided up between me and Ghost to read and research, so now I’m like New Horizon’s greatest living expert on this kooky communist liberation ideology of transsubstantiation, CLIT for short! I call it CLITorism. Pops doesn’t like me calling it that for some reason.
I’m also now like the world’s biggest expert on recycling beer bottles, because we’ve spent the evenings of this last week eating pizza and drinking beer and talking about what it all means. I’ve never got hooked into the narrative of my wetwork before, but there’s something about everything going on in Lima’s past that really gets you in, like a crime movie. Maybe it’s that video of the girl saying she found it, on a loop, looking at us like she’s really there, you know? Or maybe it’s because Lima was crazy enough to write his story in actual books, not on a digital diary like this one, that gives it this extra weight. But it’s a really crazy story and we seem to have become a part of it, and we want to figure out what Lima meant to Alt and what Alt’s looking for, because we’re worried she’s gonna try and rub us out for even glancing sideways at that girl in the video, or maybe she is gonna want us to help her with future jobs, and if she does we need to know what we’re up against.
So the way we figure it, based on the diaries we read and the books, Lima and Alt and this girl Samantha were in some kind of experimental research institute in south America somewhere, from when they were kids, and they had some kind of experiments in transubstantiation. Samantha found the technique of getting out of her body first, but Alt and Lima got it too and Lima thought he was stronger than Alt, and somehow they all got away from that institute (I guess you can do that when you aren’t tied to your body). Alt came to New Horizon to get famous in her 22nd century Scarlet Pimpernel gig, and Lima went on some CLIToralist rampage through the mountains of south America. Once he’d got his mob of CLIT fanatics up to steam he came to New Horizon to find Alt, because they’ve got some kind of hate on for each other that we don’t know why. And he set himself up in that ruined hospital with the kids and everything while he was hunting Alt. But we aren’t sure if that was his whole purpose, and we think maybe he was doing experiments on the kids or actually taking their minds out of their bodies – transubstantiating them – and using them as tools for his hacking.
And his hacking was good. The chip that I took from his head had some secret videos of him hacking Alt, and he could beat her down in microseconds and get complete control of her. She regularly attacked him in the Husk and he beat her every time. We are keeping that info secret, diary, because of Alt knew we’d even seen those videos we’d be more extinct than the polar bears. But we have seen what Lima can do. Also we think maybe he’s not dead, but trapped inside his hacking equipment, which is why Alt didn’t want us touching his stuff and didn’t care about him dying, and wanted us to call it in quickly – because she can extract him from his hacking gear without needing his body. These CLITorites are weird and scary.
So we decided that we’ll give all the diaries back to Alt, not mention that we have the chip with the video of her getting digitally pwned, and see if we can swing more work from her – seems like a good idea to be on her good side. In the meantime, during the day when we weren’t gorging on pizza and yelling dumb plans over beer, we had a lot of redecorating work to do. Ragut joined our team as a member, and gave us a whole level of this decrepit warehouse that he works from for us to live in. It’s basically 5 aparments in size, so we get an apartment each and one spare that we can use for guests. We had to clean all of Ragut’s mechanical crap out, repaint, and all that stuff. It’s a decent place, except for the small problem that it’s all made out of shipping crates – the warehouse was just one big open space and he made the rooms out of crates. So it feels a bit temporary. But it’s as good a place as any, and we get to stay here and get Ragut’s services cheap and his protection of our stuff when we’re on jobs. I like it. Gotta work out how to lay out my room though, but I haven’t had time because we’ve been so busy cleaning and repairing and dealing drugs and guns and stuff. But now we have a home!
Coyote also got us some better gear, he tried to buy me a sniper rifle but they’re still illegal and he couldn’t get one easily – he promised he’d keep trying so long as we have the money. I tried pointing out to him that maybe if we spend some of our loot on making him look a little less like a monster from hell and a bit more like a fixer we might actually be able to buy gear from decent people, but he just frowned and muttered something about being a psycho. I didn’t realize he was a psycho too! But it stands to reason, no balanced mind would pay to have that garish glow in the dark tattoo on their actual face. It explains a lot. Sometimes I think I’m the only sane person in this team, which I guess is why I’m the only one who actually enjoys shooting people, and understands the CLITorists.
What, dear diary, would they do without me?
We did spend a lot of time (and beer!) talking about what to do next, and this whole week has just been consumed with shopping and repairing and talking, talking, talking about what to do with Alt and the information we’ve got. We all have this feeling of trouble coming, and we had to make plans and contingencies. Everyone seems satisfied with our direction now, but I am not so convinced. So I thought I’d finish this diary entry with a quote from one of the Ephemeralists’ spiritual leaders, some latin American chick who was full of sage advice for maniacs. She said
If you want to lose a fight, talk about it first
And I think that’s what we just did. But I promised myself I’m not gonna lose anymore fights, and since Pops found me in that motel room and we started fighting together I haven’t lost anything or anyone. I’m not gonna start losing now. So, Dear Diary, let’s look forward to the next fight, and prove that Ephemeralist chick and all her CLITorites wrong.
We spent a lot of time talking, now it’s time to start fighting.
Editor’s note: all the quotes here are taken from Quellchrist Falconer, the angry marxist leninist prophet in the Altered Carbon books by Richard Morgan.