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Skullhack Part Four

SkullHack part 4
By R.B. Clements

Philadelphia 2065

Many miles away from the dark synthesized gutters of the lower megalopolis, high in the halls of the Industrial Tower, a man, Breaken, stands at a tall thin window watching the morning light’s first dances through the fragmented constructs of Philadelphia. He has never really noticed the way the light flits here and there amongst the massive expanses of buildings that inhabit the city, the way it forms bands of gold, illuminated and made tangible by the concoction of particles being exhaled as the city’s first morning breath. Nor has he ever really noticed the huge flocks of birds, hundreds of thousands strong, taking flight in the dawn to warm the scent of night from their feathers. He is watching the yawn of this ecosystem for the first time, even though he has stood at this window, 300 floors up, a thousand times in as many days.

“Father” echoes a sharp voice around the vast chamber.

“Son?” says Breaken without taking his eyes from the scene before him.

The younger walks to his fathers vantage point and joins him in his survey. Aside from the age difference the men could be twins, right down to the matching red and black jumpsuits with the Industrial logo emblazoned on the shoulder. There is a dark determination in everything they do, and it is this subtle body language, that makes them mirrors beyond physical appearance.

“She’s dead you know”

“I know”

The two stand there silently.

Breaken the elder breaks the silence.

“She never was one of us. She always had her own way of doing things. Always so rebellious. Her mother never had that streak…nor do we.”

“Yes, I know, she never approved of our ways. Its so unfortunate that it had to happen this way…..We will attend the funeral, then?” says the younger, checking his comm as he speaks.

“Only because we have to….Where’s that damned backjacker…Jordan. He got her to turn against us, that filth hacked CoDyne. I thought I told Diego to kill him after he got the data back.“ the elder Breaken spoke these words with cold, calm, malice with only the barest trace of emotion showing, and only when he spoke of being robbed.

“Yes, Diego…. Apparently he’s dead. Jordan killed him.” said the younger with a small show of surprise.

“Jordan killed him? How? Jordan is just a data thief, a dirty backjacker, all cerebral” the older turned to his son, eerily reproducing the same slight degree of surprise.

“I’m not exactly sure how he did it, although I have some ideas, see for yourself…” the younger pressed a button on his comm, then commanded the wall screen to turn on.

“Lights…Dark” the older spoke and instantly the room lighting was dimmed and all the window glass resolved from clear to black.

“What am I looking at?” the elder had approached the screen trying to discern the image.

“This is a recording from last night, it was taken from a room underneath Diego’s nightclub. After Maggie spilled her secrets, Diego’s thugs went and grabbed Jordan, they brought him to this place…”


For a few minutes nothing happened on the screen, except the movement of lips, the occasional gesture. Without warning, Jordan, who had been standing in the middle of the room, fell to the ground convulsing violently, thrashing his limbs in in an unnatural array of movements. Diego stood from behind his desk and watched the spasms subside with impatient curiosity. After it became apparent Jordan wasn’t going to wake up soon, Diego pointed and spoke to the thug. Slowly, the large man bent over to drag Jordan to his feet. The moment he laid hands on Jordan, however, the man recoiled in what looked to be...a shock of pain. He grasped his hand tightly and grimaced. Diego started talking quizzically, which quickly turned to alarm as the thug fell to the ground clutching his chest and shuddering. Diego waddled around the desk fatly and bent by the thugs side, slapping the mans face. In a second the fat man leapt back with the quickness of a cat, clutching his palm- face a puzzle of pain. He thrashed about the room in terror, clawed at the door lock, too enraged to find its key, finally coming to rest sprawled across the desk, unmoving. Then nothing, everything remained still.

The younger Breaken pressed a button on his comm and the tape began to speed up, compressing 45 minutes into a little under two.

Then, something. Almost imperceptible. Diego and the thugs body slowly began to assume awkward shapes. It was not pronounced at first, more like a slight effect that would cause a double take. Strange colored patches started to grow on random spots of the men’s bodies. A little here, a little there, on the clothing, on the skin. It seemed as if the men were being pulled apart, bit by bit. Then, in an instant it seemed that the decomposing effect had reached some critical limit and took off in exponential replication, rapidly consuming the bodies and leaving only a wretched viscous slime. Eventually it was over. And again nothing. then Jordan began to stir.

“What do you think?”

“I would say that was nano disintegration, but how would Jordan have known to program nanos in advance? It would be foolish to carry around disintegrators in your body, unless he was so paranoid that he thought it was worth the risk.” the elder Breaken spoke as he accessed some files through his comm.

“Yes, foolish. But I don’t think that’s what happened. Its definitely a nanoapp, but not disintegrators. Our techs did a sweep of the room, they found molecular waste consistent with two humans. I think its more than just that. I think Jordan and his nanos have become open.” The younger stated the last sentence with his eyes directly on his father, gauging his response.

“Open communication? Top scientists have been attempting that for years, perhaps even a generation. And now you think a backjacker, you think Jordan has done it?” the elder countered unconvinced.

“During the sweep, the techs found the molecular waste of a padlock, as well as a waste trail breeching the room into a communications jammer. There is no way Jordan could have pre programmed for that environment, it had to be done in real time, either that or there is an alternate solution I am not aware of.”

There was a long silence as the elder thought about this new development.

“I want Jordan alive. Drug him. Bring him to me. Do whatever it takes. We need to get this programming before someone else does. But be careful, there is no telling what he is capable of, the possibilities are almost endless.”
“Yes father, I will go speak with CoDyne to find the best course of action.” The younger turned to leave, then stopped. “Father?”


“Should we have the lab make another Maggie?”

The elder, who had turned his attention to tending the ancient bonsai on his monolithic black desk stopped as the words entered his mind.

“Yes, have one of the mother embryos pulled. But this time name the baby…..Clare…”


Jordan doubled over in pain. He felt as if he was going to be sick, as if every cell in his body was screaming for implosion at once, for release from…from…His mind struggled to rebel, to find solace in something, anything. It could not be. That beautiful source, the other of his world, his lover and only real friend, was gone….dead. And he was responsible. His mind- shattered, deleted and reformed the night before by Holly loomed like some hideous stranger, responsive and knowing, but intimately different. He felt no comfort inside himself, and could seek comfort no more from her, only the tearing maw of loneliness remained. Jordan punched the walls of his flat till his knuckles were crushed and bleeding, trying to expel the void within through sheer energy and will. Exhausted he slumped against the battered, rouged wall, softly exhaling his breath, tears streaming, dreading this strange familiar world he had awoken in.

“She was found in the North Grid late last evening. I’m sorry Jordan.” Holly’s voice took on a soothing lilt that made Jordan cover his eyes with his swollen fists.

“Jordan, the wires are all covering your APB, you need to leave this place. It is not safe.” she continued.

“They think I did it?” Jordan’s face contorted in disbelief.

“I believe publicly they want you for questioning, but considering how much influence the Industrials hold with the police, it would be dangerous to turn yourself in, or be caught.” Holly replied

“Breaken and his tribe of replicates want me out of the picture….”

“Yes. Additionally, I have reason to believe Breaken was aware of the assistance Maggie provided to hack CoDyne. They know it was you.”

“What do you advise Holly?”

“Suggest going to ground, out of the city, I have coordinates…”

A few moments later Jordan was walking through the deserted morning streets towards the Lev station, hoodie obscuring his features to any surveillance that may be watching. In this world he felt utterly alien. The mourning came and went as if her memory ebbed within his mind, one second the most intimate of connections had been severed, the next he could barely remember her face. The slow staircase into madness.



The sound reverberated through the room loudly, shocking the four people who had been sitting silently in the room, eyes glued to their computer screens.

“What was tha…” spoke one of them, fear in his startled eyes


The large steel security door quaked in its frame, large dents became visible with each additional assault from the outside.

“Quick, hit the alarm”

“This is Technician Ezzir in Surveillance, we have an intru….” spoke one of the men into his field comm.


The steel door, bent at its corner from the force offending it snapped open ferociously, burying its knob into the wall with a satisfying SCHUNK.

Tony Orleans entered the room like an enraged lion, weapon drawn. His entire persona was a glow with ferocity and threat, his presence choked, throttled, and commanded the entire room instantaneously. Even the sunlight, which had been streaming happily in seemed to suddenly disappear with tremendous speed, leaving all to wonder if it had shining at all.

“Orleans, PPD, on the floor, face down, hands on your heads or prepare to be shot.”

All the men instantly dropped to the floor as ordered.

“Orleans!?!? What the fuck, have you lost your mind?! We are the PPD…” Ezzir yelled from the floor

“Shut up, kid. I want to know where this man is.” Orleans spoke gruffly, holding out a small piece of paper with Jordan’s face on it.

“You” Orleans gestured to one of the men with his pistol “Load this image, find him. And don’t fuck around, this ain’t my first rodeo.”

The technician looked at Ezzir as he slowly rose, shooting a glance that communicated volumes.

“Just do what he says…Look Orleans, we’ll do what you say just put the gun away.”

Orleans ignored Ezzir as the kid fed the image into the computer networks.

“I want every time this jokers face has walked by a camera plotted onto a satellite map. Go back two weeks. Put it on disk, and print a hardcopy.”

The technicians fingers danced across the keyboards, pulling and compiling data from the massive surveillance networks webbed throughout the city. In a matter of minutes the data had been found and applied to a satellite map, little dots marking each time a camera had made a hit with Jordan’s face.

“Good, now…” Orleans wasn’t able to finish his sentence as a can of stay-gas bounced into the room, white smoke obscuring all sight in moments.

“Attention, this is the PPD Early Response Team. Stay-gas has been used in your vicinity. Do not try to move, your non-autonomic body functions will be blocked, resulting in complete paralysis. Do not try to move. This is a police emergency, please remain calm.”

The four men had frozen immediately, strange expressions cemented to their faces. Orleans, however, continued to move, his molecular circuits unaffected by the gas. He picked the smoking canister and threw it back down the hall from where it came.

“Take that you bastards” he yelled in the direction of the hall.

Orleans turned and grabbed the disk from the computer and placed it carefully in his trench coat pocket. As he moved towards the window he kicked a rolling office chair sending it spectacularly across the room and through the glass and down four stories into the street below. Orleans ran towards the expanse, his tie flipping wildly over his shoulder, trench coat billowing, and jumped without hesitation.


Next installment: Jordan starts to use his nanobots, Orleans battles the Industrial goons over Jordan, we find out the truth about Holly, and we meet CoDyne (the Industrials AI computer).

Hope you are all enjoying it.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

keeps me interested

I really like what you're doing with this story. I definitely want to read more. Thanks for sharing it!

kelson.philo's picture

diggin it.

diggin it.

We should have a tip jar...

... 'cuz I feel like I owe you a few bucks for the entertainment! Keep 'em comin'!

--Dan Bayn


Hey Reverend-

Thanks for the positive feedback, I appreciate it! I read through your site and enjoyed your writings, and I agree, a pack of werewolves would be fierce. Im particularly glad that someone who has interest in animation/anime/comic/etc. is enjoying the Skullhack series, as it is intended as an illustrative series. thanks again! -cheers


Likewise :)

Actually, I'm in the middle of writing something that's designed as a screenplay-in-prose; every line is either dialogue or visual description, so there's nothing that couldn't be put directly on the screen. We'll see how it turns out. (I'm sure I'll post it here at some point.)

Skullhack includes a lot of non-visual material, particularly internal monologues and exposition. You'd have to come up with creative ways to put that in pictures. (Although... since this is so very noir, voice-over narration would harldy be out of place.) As it stands, though, I think Skullhack is already in its best medium: prose.

You strike me as a very cerebral writer. It may be hard to transition your work into a visual medium, but I definitely consider it one of your strengths. Don't sell prose short, especially not when it comes to publishing sci-fi online!

--Dan Bayn


Yeah, most of my previous non-fiction and fiction work has been very cerebral, which is fine, but I want to try different approachs to writing, different styles etc. Finding a creative way to put it into pictures (or words), as you say, is something Im trying to learn. For example, how would I explain that Orleans is a biodroid, without doing a narrative?

Also, someone mentioned on a thread a while back the possibility of doing podcasts on oort-cloud, which may be a better medium than illustrative for this series.

Thanks for the input!



I think you could get away with alluding to his true nature for a while. In the Captain's office, you could talk about his brain throwing errors (or some other, far better technical allusion) and we'd just accept it 'cuz Jonah has a computer in his brain, too. Then, his superhuman antics in the control room would start to clue the audience in. The big reveal could come later.

To deliver the full exposition, maybe his malfunction triggers an emergency communication to the Captain? (Again, this would work best later in the story, as such a communication would surely include instructions on how to shut Orleans down.) The content of the message could be conveyed via dialogue, maybe from an assistant to the Captain while he's lying in a hospital bed (recovering from that punch to the face)?

One more idea: A visual reveal could work, like if the "camera" were to zoom in through Orleans' eye & reveal the completely electronic contents of his skull, or maybe show his POV & have the image flicker?

That's enough rambling from me :)

L8r, --Dan