Coming of Age in Manahatten
by Dudgeon
forum: Coming of Age in Manahatten
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Coming of Age in Manahatten


The age of true adventure beyond the arks was long past, Morden knew, though that was what he craved. A living barbarian hadn't been sighted in well over a century. There was nothing but dead earth and broken buildings for as far as the eye could see. So there was nothing for him to attack with the heavily armed tactical attack and troop transport which he flew. Morden brooded as the Phoenix passed high over the ruins.

There was also little in the way of adventure to be had within the arks. Travel to areas inhabited by the lower classes was strictly forbidden, so as not to deflate the mythology the Lords had built around themselves. The mythology of The Book and the Church of the Reborn. The mythology which Morden's parents had openly scoffed at, at least privately. Before they were assassinated for those opinions.

Biomech angels. That was the reality behind The Book's mythology. A holographic disguise behind which the Lords hid themselves. Yet it was a mythology by which they were trapped, as well. Make believe angels in the Heavenly Land. The only adventures left were business and politics, and the empty satisfaction of manipulating the pawns for profit and prestige, and even that from a distance. Neither held much appeal to Morden.

And then it suddenly struck him. There was still adventure to be had. And it had been right under his very nose. He turned the TATT back towards the ark. A new resolve began to swell within him. As the Phoenix swooped down over the ruins, he targeted an ancient office tower with a salvo of missiles. It exploded and collapsed in upon itself in a great cloud of smoke and debris, as the Phoenix screamed by overhead.

The ghost of a plan began to form in his mind as he guided the TATT homewards. It would be a daring and dangerous plan. But what true adventure did not require some risk?

* * *

Morden first met Yamamoto one evening at the pool bar located on the patio at the base of his hotel, overlooking Waikiki. Yamamoto sat on a stool at the bar itself, enjoying the shade of its thatched roof. He was a small, balding, pot bellied man dressed in an open Hawaiian shirt, shorts and cheap rubber thongs. From his appearance, the Yamamotos had married into the Mexican population at some point in their history, and he still spoke with the hint of a Spanish accent.

He was also the most refreshingly unpretentious person Morden had ever met.

"So you are the young wine merchant," Yamamoto said, after Morden introduced himself. "Not a very dignified profession for one of your great wealth, is it?"

"At least it's more honest than politics," Morden replied with a smile.

"I will have to take your word on that." Yamamoto gave out a short laugh, and gestured up at his hotel. "I am little better than a small businessman, I am afraid, by the standards of your great ark."

It was one of his only properties, Morden knew.

"But the Baron speaks highly of you. He informs me that you are the only Lord he has ever met with a better knowledge of the rare drinks than himself. Which is what brings you to me, is it not?"

Morden nodded. "I understand that you are the man to speak to about mescal."

"Indeed." Yamamoto's face wore a proud smile. "Mescal and much more. It is in great demand among collectors in my homeland, as is my tequila, which is equally as rare. They are both considered, shall we say, exotic. The tourists, you see, often take word of my wares back to Tokyo."

Morden could see from the clientele at the bar that the Pacifica Pleasure Dome was still a popular tourist destination with the Japanese, just as Honolulu had always been historically.

"Come, you have traveled far to sample my wares, and I would not wish to keep you waiting any longer. I would also appreciate the opportunity to expand my sales to include your new establishment in Manahatten."

A straightforward businessman, how refreshing.

They retired to Yamamoto's penthouse, which occupied the top two floors of his hotel, including his own private pool and patio on the uppermost floor. The upper floor also contained the public rooms Yamamoto used for entertaining. These included a large bar and lounge area opening onto the pool. It was open air, but roofed in order to provide shelter from the artificial rains which fell upon Pacifica each morning before sunrise.

Yamamoto gestured Morden to a stool at the bar itself. He then took up his own station behind the bar in order to select two bottles and place them upon its white marble surface. The first bottle, which had a fat white grub of some kind floating in it, was labelled as the tequila. The second was an opaque ceramic jug, unlabelled, which apparently contained the mescal. Yamamoto also placed a bowl of sliced limes and a salt shaker upon the bar, as they prepared to sample his wares.

"I have never heard of this 'tequila.' It was also a drink of old Mexico?"

"Indeed, it was once exported around the world. It is also fermented from agave, though from a different species, and is alcohol based, unlike the mescal itself. Let us sample some."

Yamamoto then poured them each a shooter of the tequila. He made sure that Morden got the one with the worm in it, and instructed him in how tequila was to be consumed "properly." That's what the salt and lime were for.

"The worm is actually intended to be consumed?"

"Oh but of course. It was traditionally highly prized. Bottoms up." Yamamoto grinned, before tapping his glass on the bar and raising it to toast with Morden.

Morden did the same. He sucked the salt off his hand and the juice from the lime as instructed, and then downed the entire glass with a gulp, worm and all.

It took three or four more shots before Yamamoto was satisfied that Morden had the ritual down exactly. "So that you may properly teach it to your customers."

Morden was quite drunk by the time they finished, having never experienced tequila before. Even Yamamoto, who was used to it, now laughed with greater ease as he served their drinks.

"And now for the mescal." He reached for the little pottery jug. "The mescal is special, you know. It was considered almost sacred by some members of old Mexico's indigenous populations. In quantity, they believed, it allowed you to enter an altered state of consciousness. Many even considered it a doorway into the world of their shamans or medicine men, not unlike peyote."

"Ah." Morden laughed, his head already cloudy from the tequila. "Then it is safe for human consumption."

"Oh, indeed, indeed." Yamamoto gave out one of his short laughs. "Please try some."

He poured them each a shot in a pair of small pottery cups, which he said were specially made for the purpose, and which he also manufactured and sold. It had a bitter flavour, unlike anything Morden had ever tasted before.

"It's good," he managed afterwards, with a shake of his head to clear it, his face still puckered from the taste.

"You will want a couple more in order to experience its unique effects." Yamamoto poured them both a second shot.

By the time they finished a few more than the "couple" Yamamoto had promised, Morden's head was swimming. The effects of the mescal crept in over the tequila, which he soon forgot having consumed. Yamamoto himself, while clearly more used to its effects, also wore a continuous smile now.

"And so, my young Morden, what do you think of my mescal?"

"It's unique," he managed. His words were slightly slurred. "And effective, most effective."

Yamamoto just laughed again. "Indeed, you would be interested in ordering some of my wares, yes? For the edification of your fellow Lords?"

Morden managed a nod. He agreed to an initial purchase of 10 cases of each annually. He also arranged for delivery of a few boxes of the little pottery cups for the mescal, to be given to customers with their first purchase.

"Can you also arrange special orders? For my customers, those who want it?"

"Oh but yes," Yamamoto said with delight, "as much as they would like. With room for a suitable markup for yourself, of course. You shall become my exclusive distributor in Manahatten. Agreed?"

"I would be pleased."

Then Yamamoto began to tap on the bar with his right hand, seeming to look away into the distance, or perhaps at nothing at all. It took Morden a few moments to notice his strange behavior through the effects of the mescal. Everything had become somewhat blurry and surreal anyways by that point.

"What are you doing?" he finally asked.

"Checking my inventory, taking note of your order, our arrangement."

"But how?"

"Ah, you may not be aware. My implants, biomechanical, they are an extension of my main computer. The latest from Tokyo. Convenient, no?"

"Yes, very." Morden's head was swimming. Everything around him seemed to take on a strange inner glow now, which produced luminescent trailing after images when he moved his head. He was only barely able to recall his own needs. "I've been looking for something similar."

"Then you may be in luck, as I believe that Dr. Modo is currently visiting here in Pacifica. It was he who performed my own surgery last year. Perhaps I could introduce you before you leave, yes?"

"Yes, yes, I would appreciate that," Morden managed, before he slumped forward, laid his head upon the marble bar, and promptly passed out.

* * *

Morden awakened the next day, just where he had lain his head. The air was fresh, as he began to come back to himself. The rains had only recently ended, and the sun was just beginning to rise over the Pacific. His presence had also just startled a pretty young pawn servant, as she approached to clean up at the bar.

"Oh!" She quickly composed herself, and continued about her duties. "Lord Yamamoto is at breakfast. He would be pleased if you would join him."

Morden followed her directions, though he still felt reality was a somewhat slippery concept after his experiences the previous evening. He found Yamamoto just where she said he would be, on the patio opening off of the small private kitchens on the lower floor. His breakfast of pineapple, bran muffins and strong, black coffee was spread out on the table before him.

"Ah, my young friend." His face wore a knowing smile. "Returned from the land of the shamans, I see. Did you discover anything of interest?"

Morden laughed sheepishly and apologized for his behavior.

"Think nothing of it." Yamamoto grinned. "It happens to most of my new customers the first time. Though the majority do find a more comfortable spot to sleep it off."

Yamamoto laughed again. Morden just smiled awkwardly, still trying to decide whether he was fully awake. But then thoughts of his plans finally led his attention back to his present business.

"I do seem to remember learning one thing of interest. Something concerning biomechanical implants."

"Indeed." Yamamoto gestured for Morden to join him. "Have some coffee. You look as though you may need it."

Morden helped himself to some coffee and a muffin, while Yamamoto described his implant in more detail. It was basically an extension of his regular computer, connected wirelessly and fully implanted beneath the skin.

Just what I am looking for, Morden thought.

"And this is only one of the more popular of such implants, particularly among young Lords in Tokyo, or so I understand. Dr. Modo would be more than happy to describe the rest of his wares if you would like me to arrange for an introduction. Perhaps you will find some of his other offerings of interest as well."

"There is something else," Morden ventured. He hesitated for a moment while deciding whether to trust Yamamoto with the information. But he did not seem to have much respect for authority, nor status, for that matter.

There was also just something about Yamamoto which made him seem trustworthy, and this may well be his only opportunity to inquire into the matter. He finally continued, "I have also been seeking something appropriately discrete for, shall we say, self protection."

"Ah." The sly grin returned to Yamamoto's face. "A more sensitive topic, though I do believe that Dr. Modo may have wares which would suit your needs. You will allow me to broach the topic with Modo when we meet with him, though, yes? I will let you know if he is willing to assist you along those lines."

Yamamoto then agreed to contact Dr. Modo for him, and to arrange a meeting between the three of them for that afternoon, if he was available. He was not, but was available for supper, so they met at the restaurant on the first floor of Yamamoto's hotel at 7 pm.

Dr. Modo was a slender man, tall for a Japanese. He wore dark glasses, even indoors. He bowed to them both, before joining them at Yamamoto's private booth.

"This is my young friend and business partner, Lord Morden of Manahatten," Yamamoto said, by way of introduction. "He has no love of politics or authority, like myself. He is interested in discussing the possibility of purchasing an implant similar to my own."

Modo nodded respectfully towards Morden, apparently put at his ease by Yamamoto's comments. And by Yamamoto's own trust in him. It was also becoming apparent to Morden that Dr. Modo's business, while perhaps not technically illegal, was conducted circumspectly. Not a topic which should be broached in government circles.

Morden remained fairly quiet during the meeting after that, leaving Yamamoto to do most of the talking. Modo openly discussed his wares, however, describing the capabilities of the various other implants he had available—visual, auditory and memory enhancements, and something else which caught Morden's attention. A variably programmable scanner, not much larger than an inch in diameter, which could be implanted into the palm of one's hand, and connected directly to an implant such as Yamamoto's to provide for a data entry function. Could well prove useful.

At the conclusion of their meal, Modo excused himself, saying he had another matter to attend to. He bowed to Morden as he stood to leave, with Yamamoto accompanying him to the hotel lobby where they could speak privately.

When he returned, Yamamoto sat and said, "He has agreed to do your surgery if you are still interested. I have told him that you will contact him tomorrow to make the arrangements. Payment will be expected in advance."

And then he leaned forward. "The other matter is more delicate. He may be willing, but will want to wait at least another six months after the present surgery, in order to conduct his own background investigations, and to monitor your progress. A substantial down payment will also be expected before he will even discuss the possibility, or the options available, again payable in advance, before you return home."

Morden nodded and thanked Yamamoto for his efforts on his behalf, suggesting that he would need to book a room at his hotel while he awaited his appointment, a week hence.

"Oh no, my young friend, I wouldn't hear of it, you shall be my guest!"

Morden tried to argue, but quickly realized it was futile. Yamamoto's hospitality was not to be questioned.

* * *

And then it was time.

Dr. Modo had booked an operating room and bed at the local hospital in advance of Morden's scheduled surgery. Being largely a retirement community, there were several local pawn doctors, whose skills were rented to others when not needed by their owners. There was also a very well equipped hospital, with large private rooms. His own room had a nice view of the beach.

Apparently Modo did a lot of his surgeries in the hospital in Pacifica, as he appeared to be well known among the staff. Perhaps this also allowed him to avoid the direct scrutiny of Lordly government in the various arks. Pacifica had no Board of its own.

Morden's own surgery to implant the computer extension and scanner took two entire afternoons, with a day between and one after for recovery and monitoring.

The first day involved the implanting of wire filaments just below the skin, running from below his left armpit down to the touch sensitive pads at his finger tips. The slim, flexible scanner, connected to them, was implanted somewhat deeper, against the bones of the palm of his hand. Fibre optic connections were also implanted from the spot below his arm to just behind his left eye. The incisions were all then treated with a genetically engineered sealing agent in order to promote rapid healing and prevent scarring. The surgery would be completely invisible.

Having "laid the cable," as he described it, Modo then spent most of the second day making the delicate connections between the fibre optics and his optic nerve. These were made possible through semi-organic components which could be connected to both. They were able to translate the digital light signals transmitted by the former into the appropriate nerve impulses. This allowed the computer's screen to be projected directly onto his left retina, though technically, of course, it wasn't a "projection." Rather, the appropriate retinal areas were stimulated in the optic nerve itself, in such a way as to fool the brain into "seeing" a screen which wasn't there.

The tiny computer itself was then implanted below his left arm, and connected to the filaments and fibre optics. It was equipped with a powerful transmitter—the largest component—which could cast and receive over a distance of about 20 miles, and the latest in neural net microprocessors. Patterned after the neural pathways of the human brain, these chips were not only much smaller and faster than conventional chips, but could also learn, at least after a fashion. Perhaps "adapt" was a better word for it.

Both Modo and Yamamoto were present when he was first cleared to activate it.

"If there is any disorientation, or if you feel anything, any unusual sensation," Modo said, "please inform me. You should feel nothing."

"You will be surprised, though." Yamamoto swiveled the tray used for eating while sitting in his hospital bed over Morden's lap.

Morden reached towards the tray. He hesitated for a moment to prepare himself, before executing the quadruple finger tap which activated the computer. He was surprised too. He even jumped slightly, despite Yamamoto's warning.


There was no fade in, no transition, no "poof." There was suddenly just a screen there, floating before him about two feet away, as plain as a trivid projection or the real computer in his study. He reached out automatically to attempt to touch it, but his fingers passed right through the image.

"It's so real!"

Yamamoto gave a short laugh, "Indeed."

"The computer also adjusts its projection intensity to match current lighting conditions, so that the screen may be as easily read in the brightest or darkest conditions," Modo added. "Try accessing the scanner."

Morden executed the brief, simultaneous five finger press which set a temporary data entry location for the computer. This location served as the reference against which the movement of both his fingertips, and the five dots representing them on the screen were calculated until the computer was shut off, or he set a new location. He selected the scanner's menu icon by moving his index finger dot and tapping the tray/screen in the appropriate spot.

It was a full function scanner, according to the menu's contents. It was capable of everything from full audio recording, to trivid, televid and still photography. It could also analyze the chemical content of solids, liquids and gases, and even lift finger prints and scan for genetic traces at close range, among other things. A perfect tool for forensics.

He then selected televid with a tap on the tray, and recorded Modo and Yamamoto standing by his bed by turning his palm to face them. Yamamoto leaned forward. He smiled broadly and waved into Morden's palm. When Morden tapped "off" a file icon immediately appeared. After viewing the recording with a laugh, Morden filed it and shut the scanner off.

"It's working fine."

"Good. Now try turning the computer off."

Morden selected the screen off icon and it disappeared with a tap, just as instantly and seamlessly as it had appeared.

"Any sensations of any kind?"

"Nothing, seems to be working perfectly. Thanks so much."

Modo smiled and bowed. He seemed proud of his work.

"Do not use it too frequently before you are able to return home and set its cast frequency to that of your base computer. Remember, it is a neural net processor, and will learn your routines. You will want it to adapt first and foremost to its primary niche."

"Of course, and thanks again."

After that he was free to go. He arranged to leave that very day, anxious to get home and see what his new implant could do once it was linked into the network including the base computer in his study, and the flight computer on the Phoenix.

And from there to arknet, and to down below.

* * *

The following six months passed quickly. There was much to do. Morden periodically continued his travels as a wine merchant. It was necessary in order to keep up the front which would cover his secret activities.

In his private time he acquainted himself with the capabilities of his new implants. He also began to make the detailed preparations necessary for his first adventures down below. All the planning he did from his study now used the implant. He wanted to establish his routines, and to allow it to adapt and improve. He also wanted to become practiced with the interface himself. So that it became second nature. A part of himself.

The full capabilities of his computer extension could not be explored until he arrived down below, and began to use it to override the programming of various systems on site as needed. Virtually everything was ultimately connected to arknet. And to Morden's knowledge, because of the travel ban, there were no built in limits to the Lords' prefix codes. Quite simply, no one had ever anticipated they would be needed. The Lords used them routinely to conduct their business and political affairs. They allowed you to override security and access public data, such as government and police files. Accessing equipment and systems was somewhat more complicated. Unlike public data, both the location and the function of such equipment were also required for access. The Lords were not normally privy to this information from up above.

The first order of business was to establish an identity for himself down below. One that could be seamlessly assumed when he arrived. He had already made a 1 million credit down payment with Modo for his next surgery. So he wanted everything in place as soon as it was scheduled and accomplished.

Morden decided upon a recording industry executive and talent scout from the Torona ark named Morley. Someone who could be hired by his own recording company and moved to the Island when necessary. Someone whose profession also required travel, to explain his absences.

It took over three months to appropriately doctor all of the necessary public records, including tracking down and falsifying all of the date and authority tags for each entry. When complete, the new entries appeared authentic to even the most detailed investigation. He then sent all of the changes simultaneously, instantly creating a well rounded character with a complete life history in all of the appropriate government databases in the Torona ark.

Not that anyone was likely to notice. Morley was merely a fiction with Morden's face, whom no one in the Torona ark had ever actually met. Little more than a data trail in various official computer systems. Until Morden assumed the identity upon his arrival on the Island. Even so, it was best to be safe, in case anyone ever checked up on Morley's background once he became a "reality" down below.

Morden's discrete inquiries as Morley; with falsified location tags from his fictional residence in Torona, then established that he was considered completely real in government circles down below. Real enough to order his own Citicard when the time came. A Citicard would serve as official authorization of his move to, and residence upon the Island. It would allow for free movement in all areas Islanders were authorized to travel to when he "found" a job, as well as serving as ID and cred chip.

It would even allow him to vote, Morden thought with amusement.

Morley was also real enough to open a bank account in advance of his move, which Morden had already done in his name. This account would eventually receive a substantial, but not unreasonable salary from his own record label, which would be transferred onto his Citicard.

Finally, with his Citicard and a high status job, he would be able to rent a luxury suite in one of his own buildings. No point paying rent to anyone else. He would simply order the staff at his record label to arrange to have the suite furnished and prepared in advance of his arrival.

Nor would Morley have to worry about producing any profitable results. Morden would hire him personally, and he would be answerable to no one else. Nice to be your own boss.

By the time the six months were almost up, everything was in place but the actual order to his record label to hire his alternate personality. That would automatically trigger most of the remaining arrangements.

And then he had been contacted by Yamamoto, with the news that had received Modo's final approval for the second surgery. They were to meet in Pacifica to discuss the possibilities personally. Morden booked a maglev trip for the following day.

* * *

It turned out there was really only one possibility that suited Morden's needs. He would also be the first person upon which the surgery was performed. Yamamoto had informed Modo that what Morden wanted was the most discrete weapon available. Modo had also correctly assumed this meant it should be undetectable by any type of conventional security scan. He already had the necessary components on hand. The second surgery could commence the following day.

Most of the other implants he discussed involved hiding weapons of various kinds—switch blades, garrotes, poisoned dart guns and what have you—in the fingers. Others involved replacing entire fingers with artificial ones. But all of them had significant metal components involved.

There was another option; Modo's new prototype. It was mostly plastic and silicon, like their angelic implants. In fact, it was an enhancement of the same effect. When Modo first described it to him Morden finally realized why he was so circumspect about his operations. Firstly, activation of the weapon required activation of the angelic implant, since it was an expansion of the same effect. Secondly, it also involved an alteration of his angelic implant. Mostly this involved the addition of the further components and power required in order to turn the same type of technology into a weapon. But any alteration or tampering were completely forbidden.

A small component, only about twice the size of the original, was added directly to the angelic implant itself. It was located between the shoulder blades, and connected to Morden's spinal column. It was also intended to generate and project visible energy, but in a more focused way.

Where the standard implant projected a simple aura of visible light energy, not unlike a trivid, the enhancement projected a concentrated blast of light and electrical energy. Enough to stun anyone who was hit directly. Very much like the stun guns the police used down below. Special fibre optics were run down his right arm to his palm, into which were implanted various tiny lenses and components. These were required in order to concentrate, focus, and finally project the energy transmitted down the fibre optics from the new implant.

They were all present when Morden first tested the weapon two days after his surgery. Yamamoto suggested that one of his warehouses would be a suitably discreet location for the test, and Modo agreed. There were even mannequins set up as targets, Morden noted with a laugh as they entered.

When they were ready, Morden activated his angelic guise. The blue-white glow of its holographic projection immediately engulfed his body. This was followed by the weapon. Like his angelic implant, it could be activated and deactivated by a mere act of will.

"The power will begin to build in your palm," Modo had informed him beforehand. "Once it has built up sufficiently, simply throw your hand forward to fire it. If you deactivate it first, the charge will simply dissipate."

Morden held his hand before him as the energy built up in his palm. It rapidly formed a bluish-white sphere of light. Soon he could feel it as it crackled against his curled fingers. When he began to find it difficult to contain the energy buildup, he snapped his hand sharply forward. The ball of blue-white energy leapt out of his palm, splashing against one of the mannequins, which it knocked to the ground.

Yamamoto let out a whoop.

Modo just clapped casually. "Very good. The charge takes a moment before it begins to build again, but you will be able to fire about a dozen shots within a span of only about two minutes. Once fully spent it will take about half a day to completely recharge from the energy supplied by your body's metabolism."

Not suitable for all out warfare, then, but perfect for self defense.

Morden continued to fire as the charges built on his palm until the implant was spent. This gave him a sense of its recharge rate, and allowed him to practice his delivery. He missed several times. It was also a short range weapon. The charges began to dissipate after about 20 feet or so. But by the time he finished, the eight mannequins all lay scattered across the warehouse floor.

"I think we can safely consider our plastic friends to be officially dead." Yamamoto laughed with delight.

"Stunned, actually," Modo corrected. "A human would waken within the hour."

"More than sufficient time to escape, though. This will do nicely." Along with his satisfaction, Morden's preparation was now complete.

* * *

Morden returned home the following day. Compared to all the preparations necessary to make it a reality, the actual implementation of his plan was surprisingly uncomplicated. Almost anticlimactic in an odd sort of way.

He began by contacting Jameson, the CEO of his own Board at Morden Enterprises. Jameson was informed that he would be assuming executive authority over the entertainment division of his holdings directly. This included his televid stations, televid and music production facilities, as well as his record labels.

He also informed his board that he wanted to meet with them briefly. The meeting was to take place in the conference room in the subterranean maglev station. The ostensive purpose: so they could deliver their next quarterly report, and meet face to face for the first time. They were to book the conference room for their own meeting at the time he specified, and for another half hour meeting to follow. They were also expected to pick up a package which the entertainment division would be preparing for a new employee, and to bring it to him. He would then deliver it himself when he met with the new employee following their own meeting.

Morden then contacted the head of his entertainment division to inform them of much the same. He also instructed them to hire Morley as his immediate subordinate concerning the music subdivision, gave them all of the necessary information, and ordered them to furnish Morley's suite. Morden also sent them the instructions which he had prepared for their new employee. These informed him of his duties and responsibilities within the company. They were to be put together with the keys to his suite, and the Citicard which Morley would order and have delivered to their offices. This was necessary so that Morley could be data tagged as one of their employees on his Citicard. Appropriate travel privileges, including access to pawn areas in the other arks and to the Mainland would also be tagged on the card. The entire package would then be picked up by the Board, and later delivered to himself in the conference room where the two meetings were scheduled to take place.

Everything was then in place for his first trip to down below. All that was necessary to transform himself into Morley now was a little subterfuge, and a couple of overrides of the security cameras in the maglev station. These were routines Morden had already prepared and rehearsed several times in advance with his computer implant.

Up above was actually connected directly to down below by means of the same elevator shaft which serviced the maglev station from both levels. The trick was simply to get around the security systems which monitored who was able to access the elevator and where they got off.

Firstly, the elevator would only open to either Lords or Islanders at any one time, so that they never unexpectedly met in the elevator itself. The travel of Lords was given priority. Secondly, depending upon who boarded and from where, only certain exits were accessible. This provision could not be overridden without attracting far too much attention, far too quickly. Access from up above was usually only accessible to Lords. The doors would only open either for someone who scanned as having an angelic implant, or to a Citicard authorizing a visit to up above, a privilege granted only rarely to the highest status pawns. And Morden's new weapon, Modo had assured him, would read like any other angelic implant on such a scan.

Morden's main problem was that once on the elevator, Lords could only disembark on their side of the maglev station. This was because only the doors opening into the Lords' own boarding area were accessible. Except by those who had boarded with a Citicard authorizing a temporary visit to up above, who could only be returned to the Island. Both the doors opposite, which opened into the Islander's boarding area, and the level opening into down below itself, would only activate if the elevator was boarded with an authorized Citicard. The doors from down below itself would also only open to a Citicard authorizing travel either to the maglev station or to up above. The former required a valid ticket. The latter the previous authorization of a Lord. Both would be encoded on the card as appropriate.

The key was that all of the security had gone into identifying who had entered the elevator and from where. It was also focused upon assuring that only the appropriate people disembarked in the appropriate locations.

There were no detectors nor camera surveillance in the elevator itself, as there were in the maglev station on both sides. Also at the elevator's entrance to down below. Further, only the pawn authorities monitored what went on from their side. For its part, the Lords' side was monitored only by themselves, and then only when someone felt there was a reason to look. The Lords were entirely self-policing in this, as in all other matters.

Fortunately, the entrances to the conference room followed the same logic. Only Lords with angelic implants could enter and exit on their side, and only Islanders with valid Citicards from theirs. And while there was again camera surveillance of the boarding areas on either side, there was no surveillance within the room itself, as with the elevator. This would have defeated its purpose as a place for discreet, unmonitored, face to face meetings for business or political purposes, meetings whose topics were too sensitive to cast their contents via trivid projection.

But Morley's Citicard was in the package which his Board brought for Morden, so that he could deliver the package to him personally. His Board didn't know exactly what the package contained. Only the people at his record label knew that. And the latter did not know exactly where it would be delivered. They only knew that the Board was to pick it up, and that it was intended for Morley.

Once Jameson and the others had left, Morden simply waited for the maglev train from Torona to arrive. The same one which Morley had purchased a ticket for at the other end. Morden then executed one of the override programs which he had prepared and rehearsed with his computer implant. It seamlessly added a virtual Morley to the televid surveillance camera's footage. The image showed Morley disembark from the train as it arrived, and then enter the conference room with a Citicard he didn't have.

Of course, the door didn't actually open. So a fake entry was also added by Morden to the appropriate files at the correct moment. They now recorded that the door had in fact been opened using Morley's Citicard. Morden even added the appropriate authorization codes to the record, which he was able to lift magnetically with his palm scanner once he had Morley's Citicard in hand.

After he waited a suitable interval for their "meeting" to take place, Morden executed a similar program which reported that he had opened the conference room door on his side. The surveillance cameras were again doctored in order to insert an image of himself leaving and boarding the maglev train to depart on a wine buying expedition. A trip which he had also booked in advance.

Once Morden had officially "left," it was then a simple matter of using Morley's actual Citicard to activate the doors on the pawn side of the room, and enter their side of the maglev station. Both the door and the elevator were also only interested in Citicards on this side of the station, there being no need to scan for angelic implants. The elevator would also only debark down below without a special authorization from one of the Lords for a visit to up above.

When he wanted to return to up above, he and Morley would simply meet again in the conference room. Just before a virtual Morley left to scout for talent in the pawn areas of some other ark, and just after a virtual Morden returned from his most recent wine buying expedition.

An intricate and lovely dance, Morden thought, as he rode the elevator up towards down below for the first time. And it was all made possible by his implants being able to trigger his computer overrides on site at the appropriate moments. That and their ability to scan the authorizations encoded on Morley's Citicard once it was in his hands. He could even travel to other arks as Morley eventually, but the Island was more than sufficient adventure for now. Beyond that lay the dark Mainland—below Manahatten itself—which appeared to have its own distinct cultures.

Morden took a deep breath as the elevator doors opened. He prepared himself a moment, then took the final, forbidden steps through the portal into down below.

It was a moment which had taken just over two years to plan, prepare for and execute, due to the risks involved. But as long as he kept both himself and Morley out of the pawn media, no one either up above nor down below was ever likely to be the wiser concerning what he was actually doing.

There was no one else on the platform when he stepped out into down below for the first time, as planned. He had waited for both the members of his Board and the passengers who had debarked when Morley "arrived" from Torona to leave before he left the conference room. But there was still a car waiting. They were the only means by which the platform to the elevator shaft was accessible from down below. This provided a further level of security where access was concerned.

Unlike the cars up above, the air cars down below actually had pilots. Only high status Islanders could afford them, the same class that could both afford, and were allowed, travel to other arks or up above for business or political purposes.

"Where to, Mac?" the driver asked as Morden sat himself in the back seat of the car.

"One hundred south central park." It was his own building, erected by his family to replace several of the original apartment towers during the enclosure.

"Nice digs." The cabbie guided the car away from the platform, then headed southward over the length of the Island. "Bet you got a nice place near the top, eh Mac?"

"Naturally." Morden adopted an appropriately smug tone. It was a status thing with the Islanders. Both rents and the size of suites increased with distance from the ground. Morden then sat back and enjoyed the view as he took his first flight over the Island. Or at least the first flight over it from within its dome.

When he arrived at his suite, Morden took a good look around—satisfied himself with the preparations. Small by Lordly standards, but it would do for his purposes. He poured himself a drink of scotch on the rocks from the well appointed bar in the living room, and crossed to the doors opening onto the patio in order to sample his view. He was high up in one of the tallest residential buildings on the Island, which actually looked out over the Heavenly Land itself from this height. It was a view which only the very highest status Islanders could ever hope to afford.

Morden sipped at his drink and surveyed the view. The lights of the Island at night, the air cars passing below, and through the massive transparent dome, the glow of the full moon.

And a world of adventure awaited, Morden thought, but he had done it. He had entered the forbidden land.

What those adventures might consist of were now anyone's guess.





copyright 2007 Dudgeon.

Dudgeon is is a social scientist who was raised on a farm in southern Manitoba, Canada. He currently teaches part time at a local university in the city of Winnipeg, as well as working on short speculative fiction.

Previous publications: This is his second appearance on silverthought, both pieces are adapted from his first novel, The Book of New Man, which is in the works.

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