For those of you not familiar, fan fiction is a story set in the universe of a well established book of film/tv series, using the original characters. It is meant as a way to expand the storyline/backstory of the characters you've enjoyed, and to share with other fans in order to keep the stories alive. It is generally accepted by most authors as a sincere form of flattery, as long as no one makes an attempt to profit from their fan fiction (ie-the intellectual property of the original author).
At Fanfiction.net, the largest website on the internet dedicated exclusively to fan fiction, there are thousands upon thousands of stories written within hundreds of different literary universes. After I finished the seventh Dark Tower book, I went there to keep the magic alive in my mind for a few months. I didn't want the magic to end.
As I said, I had been toying with the idea of adding a monthly feature to the website for Fan Fiction. I wanted to write a short story every month to play around in the worlds of other writers, to revisit stories that I have drawn a fair amount of enjoyment from over the years. I took a look at fanfiction.net after this mornings revelations regarding the movie, and was shocked that not a single Altered Carbon Fan Fiction piece exists on the entire site.
There are over two thousand different pieces of fan fiction regarding the "39 Clues" franchise, but none for Altered Carbon? I couldn't let that pass. I took this afternoon to write a short piece that I hope those of you that have ready at least the first volume of the Takeshi Kovacs series, "Altered Carbon", will enjoy. I did not spend a monumental amount of time on it, since I am planning on making this a monthly thing I didn't want to set the bar so high that I spend more time working on my monthly fan fiction piece than my publishable stories.
I highly recommend that you read Altered Carbon before reading the story below, as I did not spend as much time explaining the different technologies as I could have, and have included minor spoilers. I tried to emulate the writing style of Mr. Morgan in Altered Carbon, but I will let you all be the judge of how well I did.
So here it is, my short fan fiction piece for Altered Carbon (and yes, I will post this to FanFiction.net once my recently created account is allowed to do so).
An Altered Carbon Fan Fiction
By: Christopher Godsoe
It’s always the same.
In the Corps, there’s a big difference between your first “official” mission and your first “actual” mission.
They don’t tolerate fuckups on official missions, so they don’t kick you out of the nest until they know for sure that they have you ready to pull the trigger. Human nature, or at least the part that governs modern societal norms, dictate that regular people don’t kill one another.
In the Corps, that’s one of the first things they burn out of you. You are run through so many simulated attacks in virtual that you come to value human life in the same vein as hard currency, which is to say…..expendable.
No……Envoy training isn’t about creating homicidal maniacs, but we have to walk that line. The line that separates mass murderers from good soldiers, which in Envoy command amounts to as much as killing only under orders to do so, or if mission parameters dictate it necessary.
So as I watched the fresh recruit enter the bar, I knew the score with a single glance into his eyes. The eyes always give you away. You can lock down every single cell in your body, every synapse, but the subtle difference in expression always gives you away after your first kill. In other words, semantics.
This recruit had the look all over him. I put it at about a day or two prior when his squad leader had dropped him off in the badlands with a gun and nothing else but the shirt on his back. The old cliché’ of, “leave a boy, return an Envoy” rang in my ears so clearly I almost expected Virginia Vidaura herself to show up.
But Vidaura was gone. In the store for the double barrel, if you believe the line they were feeding everyone. I’ve learned that there are always two parts to every bit of information you receive. There’s the actual information, and there’s the story of how it came to be known at all.
If you happen to catch it first hand, you’re in the clear. If you hear it from someone else, see it on a broadcast, or experience it in virtual, it always comes with an underlying motivation pushing it.
So when I heard that this new recruit wanted to talk something over with me, I was more than a little curious, and more than a little on guard. New recruits don’t get a lot of free time, so if he wanted to talk to a disgraced ex-envoy, there had to be a reason.
A younger me would have told him to fuck off and been done with it, but older me decided to listen. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I was bored, maybe my curiosity just got the better of me. Either way, here I am, sitting at a bar stool waiting for this new recruit with the shell shocked expression to weave his way through the crowd to the empty seat that I was currently trying to pretend I hadn’t saved.
“Yeah, who’s asking?”
The recruit took a long look at me. That told me that he wasn’t only young to the Envoy Corps, he was just young. You put in as much time puddle jumping from world to world via needle cast as I have and you stop reading so much into appearances.
Hell, you spend much time anywhere in the Confederate and you will have seen so many resleevings that you learn to recognize old friends by their personality quirks alone. And most of the time that’s all you get to go by, since short of having your cortical stack vaporized or crushed in some accident, deliberate or otherwise, no one really dies anymore.
The tech became a necessity once interstellar travel became commonplace. The Confederate had already sold the idea to the masses long beforehand, of course, as a means to remove most of the risk from everyday life. People had lined up by the shipload to be put on lists so that their children would be born into a world where falling off a cliff wouldn’t be any more inconvenient than totaling their car.
So the fact that this kid gave a damn what kind of sleeve I was in reinforced just how young he was. I had him pegged for about nineteen, twenty at the oldest. Just what he wanted with me, I had no idea. Most of the people that ask about me tend to be older, old enough to have things to lose. Old enough to have things to gain.
“My name is Taito.”
“You got a last name, or didn’t the Corps issue you one?”
This was going nowhere fast.
“Kid, I didn’t ask for my name. I wanted yours.”
The kid seemed to be steeling himself, but for what I had a hard time reading. I didn’t know this kid from a hole in the wall, and he had requested this meeting, not me.
I turned back to the bar and stubbed out my cigarette.
“That is my last name. You’re my father.”
I decided to light another one, and drew the soothing blue smoke deep into my lungs. I had given them up recently, but Envoy intuition had picked up something in the kids voice this morning that suggested tonight might be a good time to start back up again.
Envoy intuition, batting a thousand since the founding of the Corps.
It was my turn to look him over. Of course, being that he was still in his original sleeve, this wasn’t nearly as useless as one might think. He certainly looked the part. High cheekbones, dark hair. The same eyes that gave him away also told me that he believed what he was saying.
Motivation, Takeshi. What’s the Motivation?
“Alright kid, I’ll bite. Assuming I am your father, why track me down now?”
He gestured to the seat as if to ask if he could sit down. I waved my hand as if to gesture that I didn’t give a shit what he did.
“Why not? I have leave, I heard you were in the area, and I thought it would be….. interesting to meet you.”
Despite myself, I was buying it. They say that chemical connections exist to allow many animals to tell their own family apart from that of others. Despite all of our technological advancements, I think some of that remains. I’ve seen it before, dealt with a few of those lingering bonds myself on earth once. The bonds may not have been mine, but the previous owner of the sleeve had left behind a nasty addiction for cigarettes and one Kristin Ortega.
So faced with the choice of telling the kid to fuck off, turn around and finish my drink in peace and listen to what he had to say, I decided to hear him out.
Call me nostalgic.
I didn’t have to elaborate, he knew what I was asking. One of the pleasures of conversation between Envoys is that we get to drop the formalities and let the conditioning fill in the obvious gaps.
I remembered Reyna, but that isn’t saying much. I remember everything, and everyone. Another trick of the conditioning.
Reyna and I had spent a weekend on a flotilla down at the Harlan City Harbor after I had returned from Earth. She had born a striking similarity to one Miriam Bankroft, and good fortune had put her in my path when I needed to purge the remaining Merge9 from my system.
We fucked under the moonlit sky for hours the first night, completely oblivious to the angelfire dissecting a clutch of meteorites as they entered the atmosphere. We felt our way around in the darkness, with momentary glimpses of each other as the space rock was vaporized far overhead.
I must have had done a pathetic job of locking down the grin on my face, because Taito cleared his throat to bring me back.
“No, it was your eyes. Same way you know that I’m telling you the truth,” Taito said to set my mind at ease.
Envoy conditioning. Gotta love it.
With the memory of Reyna’s auburn locks framing them, the eyes looking back at me that night as we writhed under the angelfire were a dead ringer for Taito’s.
So, the kid was likely telling the truth, but that still didn’t mean I had to like it.
“Let’s get a table.”
I bought the first round.
“I’m afraid that you have me at a bit of a disadvantage.”
That was a bit of an understatement. He knew that of course, but it was a little late for a more convenient way to start the conversation. Or, it may have just been the alcohol talking.
“I’m not looking for a father figure, so relax. I’m grown. I just wanted to meet you, introduce myself, and have a few drinks with a fellow Envoy.”
“Ex. Envoy.” I felt the need to clarify.
“You never really stop being an Envoy, Pop.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He laughed and stretched an arm over the back of the chair.
“I’m really not sure what to call you. Tak sounds wrong, and Kovacs seems too informal.”
I could see his point.
“How about Black Mamba, the Ice Pick, or One Hand Rending? What the fuck does One Hand Rending mean anyways.”
“Keep pissing me off, Junior, and you’ll find out.”
Oh yeah, he was definitely my kid.
“Why don’t you just call me Tak. You say you don’t need a father, and I don’t feel a particular need to be paternal. So let’s just handle this like I’m your crazy uncle that you haven’t seen in years.”
This whole situation was becoming weirder by the minute, and that’s coming from a guy that has spent days talking to a duplicate of himself, trying to decide which one deserved to live more.
The barmaid, a woman named Naomi in a derelict synth sleeve, brought us our next round of drinks.
“No doubt you’ve read up on me. Anyplace in the Corps records feel a little thin, anyplace you need a little help getting to know me better?”
Taito rocked his glass atop the Mirrorwood countertop as he considered the question.
“Not really. I’d say between their files and what my mother has told me, I have a pretty good idea who I’m talking to.”
“Good. I’m glad you’re up to speed. How long have you been in the Corps?”
“A few years. I just…”
I cut him off.
“Yeah, I know what you just did. I don’t need details, and the people that plan out your day probably wouldn’t like it if you started running off at the mouth.”
He tilted his head towards me.
“’I just got out on leave a few days ago’, was what I was trying to say before you cut me off. For someone professing a lack of paternal instinct, you sure are trying your hardest to look out for me.”
Sloppy, Takeshi. Very Sloppy.
“Fair enough. But being that I’m such an old man, I should get going. I’m late for my nap.”
It had been a mistake agreeing to this meeting. Not that I couldn’t handle the reunion with my long lost sperm, but in the way that the casual glances in our direction had become a little less subtle. Taito, having his back to the rest of the bar, couldn’t see it directly, but the Envoy intuition was picking up on it by proxy from me.
He didn’t argue, picking up on my intent with the unspoken communication that bordered on telepathy. I handed a credit chip to Naomi and we stepped outside.
I touched a Cigarette to the contact patch on the side of the pack and took a deep drag. The cooling effect radiated through my entire body as I exhaled and turned to Taito, who had followed me out.
I saw the glint of steel before he had even emerged from the darkness. My mind marked it casually, like one might notice someone had on a blue jacket the day after a red one. The Envoy conditioning was a little slow coming on line due to the pervasive effects of the alcohol, but I still had plenty of time to draw the Tebbit knife from the contact sheath attached to my jacket under my left arm.
His first strike was predictable, a left to right slash from his hip to my shoulder. I sidestepped it, then stepped closer to him and drove my knee into his inner thigh.
To his credit, he barely flinched before taking a step back. He was favoring the leg slightly, so slightly in fact that had I not been expecting him to conceal it I would have missed it.
He came at me again, and I could tell by his posture that he was expecting me to go for the leg again, so this time I dusked the strike of his blade and landed a vicious uppercut to his jaw, which sent him sprawling onto his back. He rode the landing perfectly, rolling to a kneeling position.
He wiped at his mouth, and I didn’t need my Khumala Neurochem system to see the smear of blood that streaked down his forearm.
“So, how much of that in there was bullshit?”
“Actually, Pops, it was all true. Every. Word.”
I shook my head slightly, trying to pass off my bewilderment on the alcohol.
He stood slowly. “You left my mother with nothing. She was forced to work the meat racks to make ends meet, and where were you? Nowhere to be found.”
I considered reminding him that I had no clue that his mother was pregnant, but if he really was an Envoy, he would have already figured that much out on his own.
“So, is this a fight to the death over her honor? Because, I gotta tell you Junior, I don’t think your lifeless body is going to help put things right.”
His grin was pure malice. I had seen that grin plenty of times, when I was his age, just before I did something incredibly stupid. Like I said, I had seen it a lot.
“Alright, let’s get on with this then. If it’s worth your sleeve to see this done, then I guess it’s my fatherly duty to teach you your lesson.”
His nest strike feigned to slash, only to duck and slash at my arm as I countered. It was a well timed attack which was only partially successful. It struck the tebbit sheath inside my jacket, which took the brunt of the blow, before sliding off and opening a three inch long gash in my forearm.
A calculated loss, and one that I had planned to offer him. He had taken the bait, like the overzealous kid he was, and I promptly brought my elbow down on the back of his head.
One of the by-products of cortical stack technology is that the area including the cerebellum and brain stem carries more of the load than a typical human brain would.
The blow disrupted the nerves surrounding the stack, and he blinked out for a moment. Just long enough for me to grab the back of his head as it rocked back and forth and drive it face first into the brick building nearby. I heard the satisfying crunch as his nose broke and his soft palette collapsed into his mouth.
He fell to the pavement and twitched slightly. I had done this to countless other soldiers in battle, and the interruption in motor function from the elbow strike only lasts a moment. A quick step towards him, and I leaped away as his hand feebly tried to rake his knife across my legs.
I placed a foot atop his hand, and pulled the knife from it. A reflexive glance at the blade later, to put my mind at ease about any possible poison channels, and I was astride his back, slamming his face into the ground.
After two or three blows, I lifted his head so that I could speak into his ear. I found it strangely odd that no one had come out to break up the fight, especially since I had already put it together that the sightseers in the bar had been with him.
“Alright, Junior, let me tell you how this is going to end. I am going to carve your stack out now, and then I’m going to track down your mother. I have a bit of cash on hand, and I am going to do what I can to help her out. I would have done that anyways if I had known about you, but you had to be a little prick about it. And then I am going to drop you off with one of my friends that are currently in the Envoy Corps for resleeving, and recommend you fit for deployment. Maybe after a little time off-world we can have this conversation again. Hopefully it will go differently.”
I dropped his head, plunged my tebbit knife into the base of his neck, and pried the shiny cylinder of metal free. I glanced at the side, and a marking caught my eye.
Having seen countless number of the shiny soul storing capsules in my life, I was not prepared for what I saw. A typical stack is generally devoid of markings, but this one bore a sequence of lights that were turning off in a predictable pattern. As the last light disappeared, the cortical stack, which was in fact not a cortical stack at all, erupted into a fireball. My last thought, before my own stack was vaporized, was that I now understood why none of my sons friends had ventured out into the back alley.
A fraction of a second later, I found myself sheathed in white linen, resting comfortably on a bed. Soft water lapped at something wooden nearby, and despite the placid surroundings, he felt mildly uncomfortable. The pair of engorged breasts that rhythmically rose and fell brought back a painful memory that he had locked away.
I had been cross-sleeved again, into the body of a menstruating teenage girl. I only had a moment to rationalize the fact that Saito had only been another interrogation tactic, meant to soften me up before they began working me over for information.
I locked it down, and took the next few moments distancing myself from the horrific pain to come.
The fact that they had sleeved me in this body meant of course that whoever was planning to interrogate me in this virtual environment had purchased their software off the rack. The next few days would still be plenty uncomfortable, but at least I knew what to expect. As the door opened, I looked up expectantly for the faces of my Sharyan torturers for the evening.
Only the faces bore no resemblance to the hook nosed visages of Sharya. Both faces had the same eyes, but only one of them had my malicious grin.