|Mark Kalvin <Sahtori@***.COM>
|This is part one
|Sun, 19 Mar 1995 13:57:19 -0500
should post it instead of sending individually to everyone who requested it.
For anyone who wants to read it, here it is.
While writing this story, I decided not to rewrite and rewrite. I could try
to make it mechanically perfect but experience has shown me that I tend both
to overwrite and to over edit, so that what I end up with becomes as bland as
weak tea before it gets out the door-there would be not a single original
phrase or thought in it by the time I was done. What you have here is more or
less first or second draft material, it could be neater, but I prefer to
leave it as it is.
The best way to read it might be to put it together in a word processor and
add some space between paragraphs first. The best thing to listen to for
atmosphere would be track three on the album Passion by Peter Gabriel.
For the sake of my paranoia, I will tell you that all this material is copr.,
c1995 Mark Kalvin: you are more than welcome to write something exactly
similar to it if you want to just don't do it for commercial purposes. :-) If
you play a game, feel free to employ any idea you find interesting in it
(spells, notions, and what have you).
This story contains material that is Copyright c FASA Corporation. Nothing in
it is intended as violation of or challenge to that copyright.
All comments will be appreciated.
Dedicated to Anthony Forster, Lee Gretenstein and a whole bunch of other
people I know.
THE RED-HAIRED GERMAN
Later, Stevens would ask a waitress, "Exactly how much time is involved in
it was hot the night Intika played the Garden-hot in a way that made you
grateful for the AC. For Redding, the concert was a series of impressions
mixed with the need to watch the space around him: Smoke and lasers,
applause, the holographic sculpture hovering over the stage and all through
it, the rhythm of the drums, rising and falling, like the sound that a
dragonfly made when it was after something.
Things happened, to the time of the music, punctuating the it with events:
the person who sat next to him elbowing him to its rhythm and the clown in
the distance-five rows back and six seats west, a traveler from the Confed
lands, who had just given out his fifth rebel yell of the evening. A
contingent of street life from the Warrens sat bobbing to it; sitting in a
block; the stink of twenty unwashed bodies lined all in a row-giving off more
any air conditioning known to man could handle.
The girl in the seat in front of Stevens was seventeen and twisted. Offering
him a swig from a bag of Coca-Cola that her breath said was mostly
Stolitchnaya and whatever she was flying on. He lowered his head and shook
white dreadlocks at her, making refusal into a dance. For the fifth time that
night, Stevens wanted to turn around to give the screamer something to scream
The drums were Intika's little thing and the drums were on that night, a
syncopation of rhythms within The Rhythm, that were deep and quiet like a
The woman they were minding sat between them hunched forward on her seat,
tense and intense. Her fists were bunched in her lap, her eyes wide open,
staring at the stage, locked on it, as if she were sending thought waves to
the drummers; or trying to move the stage and everything on it by an act of
The singer stepped up and adjusted the microphone on his headpiece, unaware
of her presence as her eyes clicked short fractions of a millimeter to follow
him. There was something in the air that night that; something that the band
knew and the audience didn't. Expectation. A buzz in the air and a tension
that you could smell in the breath of the person sitting next to you. Redding
felt it, Stevens felt it. The viola found something and kept it. The guitar
played a smooth thread of synthesized voice: it was the eighth number of the
evening and everyone knew that this was where things were going to happen.
Pal Rabenda cupped the microphone in his palm of his right hand. He said,
"This is called 'Tomorrow' and then he began to sing.
Redding and Stevens: a very large, very healthy, normal, a baseline human,
with calm watcher's eyes and an albino elf-a Negro elf, thank you-with a bag
on his left arm who looked sickly, who looked as if it took all the magic in
the world just to keep him from falling over. They were a matched pair of
operators, symbiotics; a physical adept and a projective magician who were
never seen separated by more than a few meters when they were working. They
were upscale bodyguards and setup-men for the strange and expensive rituals
of inter-corporate burglary who always worked a double-blind; middle-men
linking them to clients who knew nothing more about them than what the net
had to say. They were edge-workers; what you found in the last corner of the
service sector; when the categories of porfessions thinned until all you
found were con-artists, prostitutes, and hitmen. The one entry on the net
that mentioned them said: "they will do anything short of deliberate murder
and what they can't find or find out is not worth finding or knowing."
The client was a leaf-green silhouette cut in the air of a library, a
blackbody demonstration filled with the color of the forest at night. It
moved when it spoke, showing them the spines of the books bound in and brown
and black leather on the shelves behind him. They knew that the books were
part of the image and that there was no point in stopping it to record the
background. The client was one of those people who had trouble getting to the
point-someone who only landed on the point by accident-but it had been a bad
month for paying bills and staying solvent and they decided that whoever it
was must have had something to say.
"They", the voice explained, wanted someone to escort a bootlegger, a stim
artist, to a concert-a concert that would happen soon-and that was all it had
to say, everything that it could say to anyone who didn't take the job.
Redding looked at Stevens; watched him shrug ever so slightly and then he
said, "yes" to someone whose image had been meticulously erased. The voice
said the name, "Rabenda" and everything was as clear as thin rods of leaded
Redding remembered a face like a pickpocket's-a normal with thin, sallow
skin, a large head with close-set eyes.
Stevens remembered that Rabenda was a legend, an icon, a shining, stellar
talent that burned like an arclight at the center of pop music-a true giant
in an age where people who couldn't quite play their instruments seemed to
appear by spontaneous generation. The son of an Indian banker and his
secretary, Rabenda had learned to play the piano at the age of six and the
guitar at seven. He had been compared to Glen Gould and Timon Mercado. He had
a perfect sense of pitch and it was said that he remembered everything he
ever played, note for note, perfectly-right down to the mistakes that he
never made again.
He was made a member of the Royal Academy at the age of fourteen. Everyone
with eyes and ears had seen Rabenda. The odd face of a person who wasn't
truly beautiful or handsome but who demonstrated an odd chemistry, a
charisma, with any camera that was pointed at him. Rabenda was a creature of
sound and images: a feverish-looking child sitting at a piano that looked as
if it were about to swallow him; a tuxedoed adolescent with his eyes closed
conducting an orchestra-his lips moving to something that only he and the
deaf could hear, and the Jonathan Titus interview where he explained why the
Great Hope of Classical Music had left the Academy. The intensity in his
eyes, a fire that couldn't have been rehearsed as he said, "It simply wasn't
At nineteen, Rabenda left England, saying that he was "looking for the music"
Three years later, he came back to England and formed Intika, a band that
lived together in a dead commercial space in soho. One day, someone put
ninety seconds of the performance, "Ashes and Ghosts" on a commercial path on
the Internet and Twenty-seven minutes later, everyone in Intika were
multimillionaires. Rabenda had gone looking for the music and it was obvious
that he had found it; that he had found much more of it than anyone else had
seen in a very long time.
He was the perfect rock star: quiet, almost humble, with eyes that said that
if you asked, he would tell you what he knew with a vividness that would live
with you in your dreams. He picked the groupies that he bedded with
discrimination and treated them with a tenderness that left them more sad
than angry in the inevitable interviews. The only thing that made Rabenda
anything other than a publicist's dream was his religion. Once, a suited
delegation from Sony-Columbia had gone to Rabenda to beg him for his stim
rights; and it was said that he had thrown back his head and laughed at them.
He belonged to a modernized Moslem sect that he had found in his travels that
regarded simstim as unforgivable obscenity-one that allowed for almost
anything but an image filtered through a human mind. He let them leave with
the promise that it wouldn't happen, ever-that he would sign with another
label if it ever did happen. And the corporates believed him: at any concert
that Pal Rabenda gave, the guards searched everyone with grinding, intimate
thoroughness. There was word on the net about seeing Intika from Paris: it
said you could strap alcohol and substances to your chest and no one would
notice; but if they caught you with anything like a stim rig, security would
come and put the proper boots to you.
The green man finished by underscoring the obvious.
"Copyright law along the Pacific Rim is like a sieve with a hole in it" he
said, "and anyone with a high-quality recording would stand to make a very
large pile of money."
She came into the country through an airport in the southwest and tubed the
rest of the way into the city. According to the arrangement, there were four
places and four times where they could have met her. They found her at the
third one, at Grand Central, sitting on a bench in the company of an ork who
wouldn't stop talking to her and an enormous backpack made of nylon in
electric blue. The orc looked up at Redding and walked away-just slowly
enough for it to appear voluntary. She stood up and offered Redding a hand to
shake and then did the same for Stevens. When she looked at them, her eyes
locked onto points on their faces for an instant; tracking and stabilizing
mechanisms pausing them in space; stopping them at exact, fixed intervals.
The effect was distinct and disconcerting. Redding hoped against hope that
she could turn it off.
She said, "My name is Ulrike Muller" with the precise intonation of someone
who had practiced the same phrase over and over again. Stevens shook his head
and smiled with one side of his mouth.
"No." He said," No it's not. But that's alright. His isn't Boris Reading:
mine certainly isn't Paolo Stevens."
She spoke with a definite Maastrecht accent-an aggregation from half a dozen
European languages with one or two central foci-the sound that happened when
your parents spent your childhood trawling Europe for day-jobs. In her case,
the hub was German. Her face contrasted with the language, it was an English
or an Irish face, pale and angular-a long, straight nose with a gold stud in
the left nostril; Red hair cut nearly to stubble, gray eyes, and no tattoos
showing-something that meant nothing: a laser could undo a month of maori
thorns in seven minutes. Stevens took a long look at her when she turned to
speak with Redding. She was blandly but expensively dressed in a summer suit
from Bergdorf Goodman Europe; he looked her up and down from the toes of her
shoes to the crown of her head-It took only half a second: he looked at her
just once and he knew everything he needed to.
They found an Indian restaurant on Lexington Avenue, where the cabbies got
their dinners-steam trays under chipped glass and scratched stainless; the
day's specials written in curlicues of Sanskrit and Bangla. Some places were
information dead spots where what you got by listening wasn't worth what it
cost you to sift it and the restaurant was one of them. Short, thick men were
sitting at the tables talking with one another; eating off of their right
hands under live posters of Indian celebrities. Bright, factory-blue eyes
staring out of dark brown faces.
Stevens was toying with a piece of green pepper smiling to himself: Redding
was all business.
He said, "You need a reason to be here-we're going to give you one. Are you
weird about elves?"
"Good." Redding said, "I have to ask you a few questions-they're important
and I'd like you to tell me the truth."
The middle finger of Steven's left hand made counter-clockwise circles on the
surface of the table. His eyes were slitted. His lips began moving like
someone whispering in a dream.
"Mensch-" she began and then "What is this? How serious is this? It is only
Steven's finger stopped its circling, he tapped the tabletop once as if he
were scolding it, a definite motion-"once and once only". He opened his eyes
and looked at the back of her hand; tracking the pattern of her veins.
Redding's voice remained even and steady. He shrugged. "Off-the-rack," He
said, "a broadcast-quality rig, the implant version, costs more than ten
people make in ten years-it's unreal hardwarexcomplex and dangerous to
install. Before now, I never met anybody who had one. "
"So why do you have one for this concert?"
"I went to art school. I frame shots without thinking. Why do you ask me
"Because I really, really hate surprises-surprises are something you want
everyone else to have. I couldn't ask the client but you-you I can ask. So
I'm asking: why you, here and now, with all that great silicon?"
"I don't know."
"Who paid for it?"
"I don't know?"
Stevens nodded like someone listening to music, nodding.
"Do you have regular contact with anyone? How do they pay you? "
"I have contact with one person-in Europe. I have an account-money goes into
it, enough, more if I need it. It stays full while I do as I am told. If it
goes well, they say we make a business and I get more concerts."
There was a moment, a pause when they sat watching one another. She said,
"Now? You need cover, so you get cover-you get a great place to live out in
Brooklyn-they even have police there. My friend here is your boyfriend.
You're an upscale type come in for a safe little taste of the gutter. I'll
look like a big hired guy."
"Why all this caution?"
"Because our contract says that we have to protect you until you get through
Copr., c1995 Mark Kalvin.