Kickstart: Bibliotek: Chapter One.One

Posted on 13/07/2011 by

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Chapter One

Graham was sure he was being followed. He turned around, I must be, looking back over the jagged twist of his vertebrae, tripping head long down the cobbled streets. Nothing was straight-edged in London—nothing but the edges of the straight razors he feared were just behind—there were no clear sightlines in the city. Alleyways and boulevards broke into one another awkwardly, the distant fog lamps flickering unevenly along their difficult pathways, only to cast their shadows upon him now like inverted spotlights.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” His breath punctuated by yoga-like exhalation. The first time he’d gone out on a heist with the Collective, and now he was on the run. He didn’t even know where he was, the drugs they’d all taken wouldn’t let him know that. Instead, he saw only slices of the city: stairs past black, wrought-iron fences; the roller-shutters of shop fronts, beading in the damp air. Drugs narrowed the city like a collapsing telescope—lens folding flush to lens—leading, inextricably, to their collection.

And finally. At the end of the street, a close of Victorian tenements. His destination. He dashed against the deadlocked entrance, stopping only to batter at the array of antique buzzers set by the door. After his third try at the sequence he pushed in past the green tiled hallway and zagged down the blast baffle. It was still only a makeshift hole, but it’d have to be good enough, wouldn’t it? Inside, the block had been hollowed away to hold their cache. Graham jogged past security doors, tapped consumer-grade access panels, leaving heat-prints on the glass from his palm strikes.

Then he was in the vault. Whether by industry or by chance, the Collective had drawn from the refuse of old London, and so the vault itself felt almost Station-esque, like the Victorian industry of Paddington. Graham stopped and stilled, settling amongst the scaffolding of the racks that were the collection.

Wearing his sleepless, bruised eyes, Graham looked up around him. Above towered punctuation, code, and nested packets of data in representation. Each string indexing a named collection, with codes relating to other sites, and to new fields. He’d never grokked VR before—a quaint phrase, however truly ‘virtual’ the reality was; but here, he understood it well, he could stroke his fingers directly upon the information. Columns of data towering away from him, information toppling and retreating, a broken and reassembling continuity in 3D above and all around. Units of compound code referring there and back again. Not as crass as virtual, but real. His fingertips on shelves and shelves of bound books. Towering up from the floor, pads of bound bond on racks bolted to the ceiling.

Bounds—people used to call them printed books—held in vacc’d plastic, smelling only of those long-stringed, sharp polymers. Bond and porous leather sealed hermetically from the room. It calmed him.

He’d written the catalogue system, but the packets of information weren’t his. They were coded in the bound books. Each one of which they’d ‘acquired’, pasting the bound into the system, where he’d signed them, sorting them by an obscene referencing sys—encrypted ten to the twelfth—code mapped from the fingerprint squiggles of their half-set spine glue, and indexed against the degradation of fluid algorithms. Faux 4D ID. The bounds as watched and described through time. Each of them had been taken from their past owners and hidden by his code, there in a secure network.

The volumes—before they’d rescued them—had each been uniquely, digitally watermarked and identifiable by their full text content. So, like an email, they could be traced to their registeree. There shouldn’t have been any way to take one of these bound books and pass it off as another.

But that was his job in the concrete collection: Data Security Architect. Describe the valuable bounds they’d stolen, define and catalogue them into that strange plural cache called the ‘library’; describe them for those other, secret collections, but disguise them too. So yeah, the Collective might call it a ‘library,’ but that was a misnomer; sure it was a collection of bounds, but then what true library let you touch them? Libraries were more like a private gallery, weren’t they?

Their gallery. Booby-trapped. The baffled hallways leading in to the vault armed with shrapnel grenades, each with a payload of nano pellets: packed with allergens. Those which the Collective’s own custom deodorants—sprayed into cold, prickling armpits—may cloud the membership free of, from their red-eyes and razor-itches. Though it had never been tested.

Then inside. A temp-controlled interior. An ordinary block of Victorian terraces without, but inside a cement render inches thick. The collection in the interior rooms; no windows, all dark inside. Sensors set to recognise codes from their mobiles, setting the lights off and-on-and-off to follow their visits. The light a close companion. An adult friend taking you on a tour of his childhood stamp collection.

Now in the centre of it all, a black void waited all around him. The only light a dim reading spot above him.

The bounds were exquisite. From the carbon-composite covers and paper fibres artily tangled, till they were stronger than quarter inch steel, to the oldest illuminated manuscripts. It was the dragon’s horde: millions of Euros of precious paper bond held hostage under strong copyright. They should have been held by bankers or in law firms. Instead, Graham and the Collective had them.

The door was now clamped closed behind him. It was the first time he’d gone on a heist with his co-conspirators, and it’d all fucked up on him. He was locked in with the bounds, and he didn’t think he was going to get back out.

During the previous hits it’d been his place to stay back there at the vault and to scramble the data if things went wrong. He’d designed their system, and it had been his job to make sure it stayed secure. For even if the bounds were melt, the slag stuff left behind might provide enough of a Rosetta key to decode their database, revealing their secret financiers and fences. He should stay and work to corrupt what was left.

However, that night he’d gone with them. Too often his colleagues had taken bounds they’d just had to burn; Graham couldn’t code them away, could not disguise them, not even with their quantum encryption. So as architect he had gone along that night to help with the procurement.

Now the door was on hard-lock. If it was opened, the thermite-stuffed shelving would be fired.

Sure, he thought, I’ve made a fuck of myself. And this is where all the fuck-ups get to—under six feet of deconstructed concrete.

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By Paul McLaughlan

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Initial ‘G’, Godfrey Sykes, 1864

Posted in: Btek, Hyperwork, Paul