Angel smiled as he made notes on his digi-pad, before taking soft strides around the steel room. This was working perfectly. Everything had been laid out and it was all falling into place. In mere moments the infamous Ghost known as Jinn would be revealing all the dirty little secrets that his employer desired. Careful not to damage, knock or even touch the drip feed into Akio, Angel leant down towards his subject’s ear once more.
“Yes, she died didn't she” Angel smiled to himself “but what happened then? What brought you to the Ghosts?”
Inside the dreamscape the memory birds were back again. The world melted away and Akio’s thoughts sped before him once more. He saw how months turned into years as he sought out his new drug of choice, his new high. He was a Technomancer now and he belonged inside the Mantiverse, Mantic Space, the great digital plain.
Akio’s funds were drastically dwindling and although his skills as a hacker, a wet worker, a deck jockey, whatever they called themselves that week, desire these skills improving he was struggling to survive on what little data he could steal and then fence to an appropriate buyer, what with the imposing living tax he was required to pay while living in New Brasilia. So Akio made up his mind and decided to do what everyone else did when they couldn't afford to live in New Brasilia and took the Southern Express down to The Block.
The Southern Express was a high speed monorail that connected New Brasilia directly with The Block. The entire journey took only two days and for those interested they would be treated to such sights as the Midland Lowlights, and the Badland dust storms, sights that most people would never see with their own naked eyes due to the harsh storms and radiation swirls that flooded those regions at almost random intervals. But it was not the sights of Honos that interested Akio on this day. Instead he was wired directly into the Southern Express’ Digi-Port, jacked straight into the ‘Mantiverse and lavishing every moment of it.
The ‘Mantiverse was not so much a physical place as such, but a digital dimension that existed alongside our own physical world and across the numerous other worlds comprising the Outer Fringe. The ports from which you connected into it were real alright, and inside the ‘Mantiverse those shon like giant pillars of pure light. Everything in between however, that did not exist in the physical form. Instead it consisted of data; pure, raw, digital data. That said, it did have a footprint of it’s own. When the first user connected into the ‘Mantiverse, their own consciousness, the stream of electronic signals initiated by their brain connected with the digital environment. It moulded it to how it expected the digital landscape to appear, and when the next person connected, their consciousness joined with it as well. Every time someone joined with the ‘Mantiverse, regardless of age, gender or even species, their own consciousness merged with the place and effected it’s appearance. After a while this began to stabilise as images of the ‘Mantiverse was publicised for all to see, so the new users jacked in expecting it to look as it did and for generations it remained that way. That was until Humans arrived on Honos.
Up until that point the only users of the ‘Mantiverse had been Hydan and Kratel, with a small smattering of less involved races. When the first Humans arrived and began to jack in they brought with them their own consciousness and expectations, for it was important to remember that the ‘Mantiverse looked the way it did, not because it was, but because those who used it expected it to be.
The first Human users were a group of hackers, possibly the most famous of all Human hackers; The Ghosts. They had been raised on media and entertainment from their predecessor’s youth and they knew how they expected the ‘Mantiverse to be and as expected, so it was. The data highways were dirt filled streets, the lights; strips of neon and the social hubs as pole dancing bars. It was as if the Human films; Blade Runner and Tron had bred and the ‘Mantiverse was their offspring. It was so very, 1980s.
To the Hydan who had established themselves as the unofficial presidents of the ‘Mantiverse, Humans were a plague that corrupted their pure land and needed to be purged, but it was too late for that. The Humans had already joined and their consciousness was already one with Mantic Space. And so the Great Divide was established. It was agreed well in advance, that at a certain time, at a certain place, an immense wall would be constructed dividing the ‘Mantiverse in two. On one side would be the original Hydan controlled side, while on the other would be the Human space. Both sides would become what their users desired, and as planned at the exact time and space the Great Divide appeared, not because it was built nor because it was actually there, but because the users jacked into ‘Mantic Space expected it to be there.
It was the Human side of the Divide that Akio currently walked. He didn't fly, or super speed or super-jump, because everyone expected travel within ‘Mantic Space to be like travel outside. Akio had heard of those who could do these things, of certain Ghosts who had spent long enough within ‘Mantic Space that the rules didn't fully apply to them. He had never met any but he knew that they existed because it was believed, and in Mantic Space, what you believed; was.
Currently Akio was walking at a leisurely pace down Akira Avenue, a three thousand mile road filled with shops and boutiques that catered to every type of Anime taste. Some had blacked out windows offering within your own life sized digital mannequin to play with however you liked. Others were garishly lit with random assortments of strange animals and some message stamped on the windows about ‘gathering all of them’ or something to that effect. Akio wasn't interested in Anime, what he was interested in was his broker who used shop number 864 as a place of business.
864 was just another anime shop, no different to the others on Akira Avenue. The front window was filled with cardboard cutouts of teenage schoolgirls all with impossibly large eyes and even larger breasts. Inside was row upon row of shelving racks that sold everything you could ask for, as long as you were asking for Japanese animation and behind those racks was the till area controlled by it’s own AI construct in the form of a girl who looked not too dissimilar to the cardboard cutouts. Akio approached the counter.
“Hey Asami!” Akio called to the construct who fluidly turned towards him while resting on the counter, her folded arms pushing her enlarged chest out as far as it could go “Is Tangle in?”
“Not yet sweetie” replied the AI construct, but I can buzz him if you’d like?”
“Thanks Asami, ok if I go up?”
“Sure thing cutie! Just come see me after, right?”
Akio smiled, he knew that Asami was nothing more than a digital presentation of consciousness, she wasn't even a user, but he liked the attention all the same. Following Asami’s lead, Akio stepped past the barrier blocking off the first floor and climbed the set of stairs to his broker’s office. The door was unlocked as always and Akio took a step inside before sitting down on the cream leather sofa nestled against a wall in the waiting room.
The room itself was white with cream furniture. It looked like what Akio remembered of New Brasilia’s dentist waiting rooms. The thought made him uncomfortable and he wondered if that was intended. After a short pause Tangle, his broker opened a door and stuck his head out.
“Ah! Akio!” Tangle called out welcomingly. The man was short and wore a dark grey suit with slicked back dark hair and a pencil thin moustache “I've got your order ready and waiting in the back!”
Akio nodded and quickly strode past Tangle and into the adjacent room where to his delight on top of a small plastiglass table was a three foot by one foot cardboard box. Without hesitation Akio began to pull at the box until it was nothing but a pile of shreds revealing it’s presidio us cargo. Inside was what appeared to be a matte black computer keyboard with a protruding neck and series of levers that sprang out of the bottom like guitar distortion bars. Along the neck, stamped in vivid red were the words EAGLE 95.
“Holy shit-balls!” Exclaimed Akio, unable to contain his excitement “you did it! You actually got an Eagle!”
“It wasn't easy ya know” replied Tangle pulling a large cigar out of his jacket pocket and half flicking it into his mouth “those things are all serial’d and tracked, but that was what you asked for” Tangle raised a lighter to his cigar and sparked it, puffing deep to get a good light “you got the creds?”
Akio smiled “of course I do! It should be winging it’s way to you” Akio paused and pressed some buttons on his wrist mounted PDA unit “now!”
Tangle pulled out his own PDAS and smiled “You came through alright kid, so where you want it? Usual drop point?”
“No can do” Akio replied “I'm on the Southern Express, left New Brasilia is morning”.
“The Express eh?” Tangle smiled “tell ya what, leave it with me and I'll have it waiting for you at a drop point when you reach the Block, yeah?” Tangle paused and began to look off into the distance, his eyes reading something that both was, and was not there “Drop Box 1265, you got that?”
“1265, got it”
The thing with the ‘Mantiverse, no matter how real it felt, it never was real. So while Akio held that Eagle in his hands, felt it's hard pressed plastic shell with aluminium feeds and resistor chits, it was not real. Only a representation of what the final product would be like. This form of ‘try before you buy’ was very popular, not to dissimilar to taking a car for a test drive, but your not actually using the car itself, only a digital representation of it.
“You know kid” Tangle called to Akio as the boy began to leave Tangle’s office space “you're going to make a real name for yourself with that deck, you’re going to make someone’s dreams come true! Or break them” Tangle puffed hard on his cigar “back home we got a name for people like you, you’d know them as Genies, but we call ‘em Jinn, so get outta here eh? Go grant my three wishes eh?”
Akio smiled broadly as he made his way back to the street. Jinn, Akio thought to himself. Had a nice ring to it. Yeah; Jinn.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley