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Skullhack Part 5

SkullHack part 5
by R.B. Clements

Link:Part 1
Link:Part 2
Link:Part 3
Link:Part 4

Philadelphia 2065

The street-bot appraised the cobblestone gutter with a twitch of its lens. Up and down, its lone telescoping eye scanned the edge of the street. Not a scrap of debris, nor detritus marred this aged stone expanse, its gutter. The street-bot, content with a job well done took a moment to ponder the cleaning of gutters, its central reason for existence. There was nothing more a simple maintenance bot required than a clean gutter, or perhaps, perhaps it was a dirty gutter that needed cleaning? Regardless of the quirks of its pseudo-psychology, the street-bot knew this particular gutter was clean enough for him to begin cleaning the next, continuing a cycle that brought equivalences of happiness to its programming. A strange noise stole the bots attention back from its musings, there was the shimmer and glitter of falling glass, followed by the sudden unexpected arrival of an office chair. THIS was all a street-bot could ask for. The little bot started up its ion attractors and moved happily towards the garbage. Feeling the unbridled joy of…

Tony Orleans landed hard, crushing the street-bot with a loud CRUNCH followed by a light POP. A small wisp of smoke rose from the bots single broken eye, which stared accusingly at Orleans, protesting his presence with a waning fizzle.

“Sorry little buddy, wrong place, wrong time”

A young mother with a hover-carriage stared at the giant, trench coated man who had just fallen from the sky like a stone. Wide-eyed, all she could muster was a squeak of fear.

Orleans picked up his hat which had been ripped off during his free-fall, he tipped it as he returned it to his shaved head.

“M’am, Orleans PPD, you may want to step inside with your child. This is a police emergency”

The young woman disappeared to the safety of the nearest shop doorway as cans of stay-gas began raining down from the gaping window four stories above. The cans, Perspex cylinders with rounded ends, did a strange bounce off the ground, then stopped sharply vertical in mid-air levitation to release their contents. The street was quickly filling with gas and the frozen statues of bystanders unlucky enough to be caught in the fray.

From the other end of the street two interceptorbs rolled around the corner with an barely audible swoosh. Upon sighting Orleans, the interceptorbs stopped, loudly pronouncing through PA systems their purpose.

“Orleans. Surrender. You have been charged with dereliction of duty, assualt, damage to police property…”

Orleans didn’t wait to hear the rest. His car was still in its parking place twenty feet on the opposite side of the through fare. Orleans made a mad dash for the relative safety of the car. As soon as Orleans began to move the interceptorbs snapped open like eyelids, unfolding themselves as dangerous flowers in bloom. The shiny metal that had made up their spherical bodies rapidly repositioned as various mechanical limbs extended. In less than a second the interceptorbs had transformed from innocuous blue metal spheres into armed and armored mechanical quadrupeds, clearly labeled with the PPD insignia. Immediatley, the nearest interceptorb started firing pressure-rounds at the engine of Orleans vehicle, trying to disable it.

Orleans, who had been taking cover at the trunk end of his vehicle pressed the release button on his keychain, and the trunk lid flipped open revealing a ordered array of weapons and armor. Always be prepared.

He grabbed a pulse disc, armed it, and threw the Frisbee shaped EMP towards the interceptorbs, who where crab scuttling their way towards him. The pulse disc floated out effortlessly, concealed by the lingering stay-gas until it softly landed at the feet of the interceptorbs. The interceptorbs, suddenly aware of this new threat tried to jump away like grasshoppers, their limbs moving at unbelievable speeds, but the mini electro-magnetic pulse fried their circuits in mid-jump, causing them to land in crumpled twitching heaps.

For a brief moment, the street was quiet. Orleans didn’t take the time to appreciate it. He threw off his trench coat, replacing it with body armor, he looked at his car, useless. In any second the street would be swarming with reinforcements, and he had no way out. Well, almost no way.

Orleans grabbed the jump pack from his trunk, snapping the belt around his waist, and tugging the boots on as fast as he could. He had confiscated the jump-pack from a couple teenagers a few days back, and had yet to turn it in for destruction. Jump-packs had no places in cities, they were just to dangerous with all the obstacles around. Activating the belt, he took a tentative sprint in the direction of the central city, when he had strided about ten yards a beep let him know the pack was charged.

“Aww fuck, here goes nothing…”

With a little clumsiness he jumped.

Orleans flew off the ground in the ascent of a long parabola, springing over the interceptorbs and the heads of plainclothes that were pouring out of the Police plaza. His arms flailed around in an effort to steady himself as he reached the apex of the arch, but there was nothing to steady himself on, just open air. Instantly he knew he had over jumped. Looking ahead, Orleans saw that his descent was blocked by some nameless office tower. Throwing his hands up to his face, and curling into a ball the best he could, he tried to aim towards a window.

Orleans crashed through the window taking out a desk, two computers, a filing cabinet, and a potted plant in the process. He came to rest in a heap against the far wall of the small office, caving in a section of drywall with his back. Several employees of the office came running to the sound only to find themselves staring at a six-foot-four, two-hundred-fifty pound armed man who had just arrived through their sixth story window. This was something they hadn’t been trained for.

“Is…Is..he dead?” said one of the ties, shaking slightly.

Orleans head snapped up, and stared at the office worker.

“Police emergency folks, stand back….”

No sooner had he spoken these words than a hover unit appeared at the destroyed window, armed men aiming their weapons at anything and everything. Two grappling hooks shot from a mechanized turret and buried themselves deeply into the side of the building.

“Freeze, this is the Police department, drop your weapons” came a booming voice

Orleans lept to his feet and ran as fast as he could through the office, yelling for the staff to take cover. The jump pack beeped, declaring it had reached full charge. At the far end of the hallway, a window over looking the roof of the next building stood, beckoning. Orleans ran for it.

“Damned windows…”

Orleans gritted his teeth and jumped again, exiting the office building in a hail of glass. His jump this time was a little more controlled, enabling him to land somewhat gracefully on the roof of the next building. Taking a few steps he jumped again and launched off the rooftop to continue his parabolic escape into the complex mass of the central city.


Jordan sat in his seat of the Lev train as it winded its way through the innumerable towers of the North Grid. The menagerie of buildings the train passed presented every conceivable shape, color, texture, and design. Jordan imagined if he could smell and hear through the glass of the smudged train window, those senses would be overcome with the same type of variety that was presented to his vision. He had lived in this city his whole life, and had never really left it. It was like some huge cocoon- everything you needed and everything you detested could be found here, somewhere, amongst and amidst the monoliths. He couldn’t really remember a time when he wasn’t in the city, the nation unto itself. Really, “the city” stretched from Boston to Washington D.C, with a populace of over 100 million people. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, one vast stretch of the US eastern seaboard. The City. He called it Philadelphia, because it didn’t really have a name as a conglomerate, just what each individual chose to call it.

It seemed like his mind was slipping from him, memories dropping away like snowflakes, evaporating into the environment massive.The last two days had taken an immeasurable toll upon him. He was alive, but at what cost? Maggie was dead, his mind was drifting away, and he was a hunted man.

“Get a grip, Jordan” he spoke the words out loud in an effort to have them sound real.

“Jordan?” came Holly’s soft voice

“Yes Holly?” Jordan replied in thought.

“My recent scan of your systems, data and biological, have produced two troubling results. First, your nano count is orders of magnitude above normal, they are replicating at an uncontrolled pace. In my estimation, you have about five hours before the nanos start consuming your matter for raw material. Do you want verbose data?”

“Shit, no, and the other result?”

“Your cognitive functions seem to be deteriorating rapidly, the reload of your mind image must have been incompatible.”

“I don’t care anymore Holly. I’m so tired and confused…I just want to leave this place.”

“Jordan, if the nanos continue unchecked, they will consume your body, and perhaps spread to the outer environment. Simulation shows this could have devastating effects on the ecosystem, not just you.”

“What do you want me to do!? My mind is dropping away…I don’t know where to begin to reprogram them…I‘m fucking dying.”

“Yes. But there may be a way to stop them. It will incur sacrifice…on both our parts. But, we must do something, the danger is too great”

The conglomeration of buildings stared through the window menacingly at Jordan. Did it really matter if the nanos got loose? Did he really care anymore? The flashing shadows of iron, steel, and glass gave way as the street below became visible as the train stopped at a crowded station platform. All the people, going about their lives, there were so many of them. Little children, young families, friends and lovers walking hand in hand. He couldn’t unleash a plague of disintegrators on them, no matter how lost and destroyed he felt.

“What do we do Holly?”

“Your mind is incapable of controlling the nanos. With my knowledge base and computational speed, I may be able to learn the bio-machine code you programmed them with. Considering that your mind image was incompatible, I suggest I absorb your mind with mine. You as Jordan, and I as Holly will cease to exist independent of each other. Do you want technical?”

“No…what else…”

“If we can combine our minds, I may be able to reprogram the nanos before they consume your body and move on to the outer environment. It will take massive computations to control a swarm network of trillions of nanos in real-time, but there is no other choice. Furthermore, once we are permanently linked, we cannot become unlinked. That would be fatal for both of us.”

“There is no other choice then?”

“I am unable to process a command that would lead directly to your death. From my analysis, there is no other choice.”


/* That’s it for this one, hope y’all are liking it. I had a few writing blocks in this installment, feedback would be appreciated. Thanks _alphaborie */

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.

I want a trunk full of weapons

The beginning part was very entertaining. I think the build up to Holly and Jordan deciding to merge should be longer but I really love that the nanos are such a problem. Nice progression of the story.

kelson.philo's picture

kew kew kewlio. ok, for one

kew kew kewlio. ok, for one part, you could have a scene where orleans is actually taking the jump-kit from the kids. They'd be all jumping around, feeling bad-a55 and then right when one kid lands there's Orleans right in front of him, giving him the evil eye. we'll see if orleans let's them go or takes them to juvie, and now the jup kit is in the cruiser and you have the potential for some minor characters to be sprawling around in the form of the kiddos. who knows, perhaps they help out orleans at a crucial time?

as for jordan and holly, you'll be havin' yer homewerk cut out for you there. jorlly? hordan? will they take up a different name? in their personal space will they see each other as separate? will the end result be androgynous? assuming some form of control is fashioned, this synthesis of machine and biological mind mixed with the alchemy of nanobots could become amazingly dangerous.

and therefor quite interesting.

Street Urchins?

A little crew of street urchins that know the in's and out's of thew city better than anyone? I kind of like that. I don't know where I'd fit it in, but I'm going to try at some pooint. Good idea! As to the Jorlly or Hordan, I haven't quite figured it out yet...although the transformation is going to be a physical (nanobot swarm body) and mental (jordan + holly) so really we are talking about a radically different life form than a human or a going to have to contemplate for a little bit on that one...thanks for reading

kelson.philo's picture

no problem whatsover.....

no problem whatsover..... that new lifeform you're contemplating, it's going to be nothing short of a god, it's will is done within the realm of whatever it sees and wheeeewwwwwwww boy, what if it jacks into some sort of global network? you've got the singularity man would take nothing short of a superman to stop it...


yup. The thing is, now I need a really strong anti-hero.

kelson.philo's picture

isn't there a copy of

isn't there a copy of jordan's original mind floating around somewhere?

yes, but..

1.the platform on which it loads (corebase) is different from when the mind image was taken. almost killed him when the corebase was re-written in that moment of survival(part 1)
3.if it was reloaded again it would just degrade again due to incompatibility, so it would have to be reloaded again and again
4.the nanos will kill him in 5 hours if something is not done anyways...

im having a devilish time trying make it all coherent and smooth...but all the feedback is helping, cheers! -alphs

kelson.philo's picture

well, i guess i was thinking

well, i guess i was thinking in terms of your anti hero. you've got this swarm of bots and what if they come across the format of jordan's mind and try to enact on it's programming? and tis new mind is endlessly in pain and suffering because of incompatibility issues so it goes nuts. and then you eventually have the holly jordan hybrid having to deal with this other jordan and a fraked out robocopbladerunner orleans after them as well. and maybe orleans has to deal with this other jordan also. Is that too wonky?

its a good idea...

so your thinking like:

Swarm Jordan (holly + Jordan) is created, and is a completely different entity, in thought and presence. For some reason, he re-loads part of his old mind, perhaps there is so important information that he lost, the reloaded mind somehow escapes and takes form to become the anti-hero, or maybe jumps to the networks and becomes a computer virus! something like that?

other ideas:
1.hero/anti-hero being one person. Kind a split personality thing.
2.swarm jordan(jordan 2.0) tries to recreate maggie from the dead, bad results
3.Jordan+holly go crazy, orleans becomes the hero
4.swarm jordan re-creates himself, recreation goes bad
5.jordan+holly combine, industrials find holly and destroy her(she is backed up somewhere tho), Jordan2.0 goes insane tries to destroy everything, Industrials fight back by relesaing army of malicious clones upon the streets. orleans saves the day, and forfeits his life.

kelson.philo's picture

wow! yes! all 5 (or is it

wow! yes! all 5 (or is it six, with the jordan-virus?)! have the potential for all five to coexist if you want. It would certainly give your protagonists a lot to chew on.

bottom line, Jordan has ventured out of the realm of the probable and into the slightly improbable. now he's going to have to deal with all the consequences of his actions. and so will everyone else.

Genre Potpourri

It's an interesting problem. The cyberpunk ending would involve Jordan's new technology transforming the world. (Could this be the fabled technological singularity?) The noir ending would allow Jordan to accomplish nothing but revenge; there are no happy endings in noir. Blending the two would be a challenge, but I think it could pay off big.



Thanks to both of you, your really helping me with this one! cheers!

I'm Johnny on the spot.

Loved the opener. I don't know if you were intentionally contrasting the simple contendedness of the streetsweeper's programming with Orleans' Gordian knot of internal conflicts, but it was quite poetic.

I've just got one question about Jonah's recent development: Couldn't Holly integrate herself with a copy of Jonah's mind and spare him the shared risk? Or is this also meant as an alternative/solution to his mental degradation?

(It's just that the mind meld strikes me as a bit cliche. Would it be more frightening for Holly to offer to rewrite Jonah's mind? Trusting a machine a remake your entire personality...)


Well, yes

Those were some of the writing blocks I was running up against, it gets a little confusing but:

Jordans mind was rewritten but the image didn't take, so, Holly could take Jordans mind over, fix the nano situation, and then reload Jordans mind again...but...If she did that his mind would continue to degrade over and over again because his mind is now incompatible to the image, the nanos would be uncontrollable over and over again, and Holly would have to continue reloading his mind over and over again. jordan would be stuck in a cyclical pattern of reloading his mind. Furthermore, since real-time programming of nanos has never been done before, it takes real time computation to control them. The last instruction they had was to replicate and destroy Diego. The destroyed Diego, instruction complete, but they are still replicating, an incomplete command. Jordan alone does not have the computational power to control the nanos. I got a little confused when trying to figure it out myself.

One of the problems Im having is trying to keep a logical plot flow to encompass Jordan and Holly's transformation into (im letting the cat out of the bag a little here) a bio-artifical intelligence controlled swarm of nano-bots. I've found it difficult to create a coherent picture of what was happening with out a "yes,but couldn't this happen..." popping up at every turn. Orignally I had a long a drawn out segment included that went way more in depth, and had some mind-blowing plot twists that did a good job of connecting a bunch of things, but it turned out to be overwhelming. I've decided to just take a deep breath and let it go for a little. I can re-address the finer points at a later time. Whew. Thanks for reading!


... I don't believe I got Jordan's name wrong ;)

I see your predicament. My suggestion is to ease the audience into it. As you say, Holly is incapable of executing an order that would harm/kill Jordan, so how about she just starts propping up his cognitive functions more and more as Jordan struggles with his unraveling mind. You're already doing a great job of portraying is fevered dream-state, just let him come out of it bit by bit. By the time he realizes what Holly's been doing, it's too late to turn back; Holly's become a part of his personality & most of his mind is running on a remote server (or the swarm network?).

Is that helpful, or am I completely off the trolley?


Helpful indeed

Im going to go for the slow slide into Jordan + HOlly on the re-write. Thanks