Quantum Lives: Tales of Undercity


You’ll be able to keep updated on this at Wattpad where I’ve opened a new SF account in their community site for science fiction writers at Alien Ecologies.

Set in the Consilience an InfoSpheric Assemblage of data and natural worlds enclosed in the Global System somewhere in the early 22nd Century. The opening chapter is within the virtual enclaves of Undercity where we discover a specific Artificial Intelligence as a Distributed Being or Multiplicity.

Chapter 1.1:

“Precarity, wake up gawd dammit!”

My bleary eyes synced the bioscreen. The holochron on the the datatab was the only thing glowing in the quantum darkness: 02:30 SLY. I sat up, popped a pill, bled the almost empty tumbler dry and queried: “Who the frack is this?”

“Who do you think, Jones?”

I knew who it was, couldn’t mistake the cynical arrogance of the fool. Bossman Joe a.k.a. “J.R. Greathouse”, or at least his facsimile – twitching on the neurofeed like a neon diamonback ready to strike.

“I’ll bite, so what’s the pitch?”

“Listen, Precarity… listen hard,” a seriousness I’d not expected. “We’ve got to meet. None of your slipshod excuses either. Got me?”

I hated the guy. Fat, ugly, smoked those two-bit cigars from a steamcopy catalog, Old Havana biochems, 3D print jobs tasting more like homegrown algae than tobacco. But hey, no one is perfect, right?

“Ok, I’ll fast-track it and slide in tomorrow morning.”

“Take the Sheav, Precarity. Be here tonight.”

“Frak it if I’ll take that slime train tonight.”

“You’ll do it are be wiped! Kapeesh! And…” he paused.


“Bring the crew, Precarity, this one’s business… and, I do mean BUSINESS! Got that?”

Well, when he said it that way I had to think hard – nah, even if I was a pawn in a script of coded nausea he’d hardwired ages ago I’d begun to like this datavillain lifestyle. It had its perks!

“No problemito… I get it!” I wanted to reach through the neuralnet feed and fry his ass, but knew that wasn’t goin’ to happen.

“Good! And by the way Precarity there’s the matter of Chogan’s Run to clear up, too!” He blinked off.

I felt the back of my mind blink off, too. Why Chogan’s Run? And, why now? Shite! Dam the bastard.

Hell is waking up and realizing you’re a program in someone else’s digital nightmare. There is no escape, no exit, and you know the algorithmic truth – that the quantum information in which you find yourself entangled has been scrambled beyond redemption or retrieval. You can only repeat the endless codes of a life someone else controls, like a puppet in a diabolical engineering plot you roam the electronic void like a mythological agent of an alien mind. Unable to access the bits, the 0/1 units of you’re eclipsed and coded ghost you edge your way along the endless sea of information seeking others like yourself, hoping against hope that the native denizens of this incestual hyperworld have an answer to life’s predicament.

Like a masked marauder in a Reality TV series you watch your life go by in holonomic waves, a refactoring of qubits  entangled in a cross-sequenced diagram of particles superimposed on a cinematic screen your mind displays as quantified data. You live in a black box of your own encoded subroutines, a trivial dancer whose only mission is to seek out and destroy the very fabric of human mythologies. At least that’s what your disgruntled subprogram, Mishka, keeps telling you: “Come on, get a move on, we’re late.”

Late? We’d always been too late… it was part of the algorithm. The faster you went the farther behind you got. Whoever thought up entropy forgot that information is the silence that cannot be measured, a feedback loop in a joke box that the morons in the canned laughter booths repeat like mindless apes. Chogan’s Run. The last thing I wanted to remember. The place I discovered what I am now, an alien intelligence locked up in a cage, a sentient program captured in a corporate enclave like so much profit. A manufactured entity whose only destiny was to perform espionage for a system of corrupted humans. I was a mere fragment, a semblance, shaped to the ruling passions of a blind world of human greed.

Speed… a virtual destiny going nowhere fast. Just a soundbyte in a twisted newsflash for the latest war on terror. But the terror this time is the one you bring with you in the numbered sets encrypted by the blockchains of a forgotten technology of the heart. The accelerating neuraldebt of a machinic civilization finally attuned to the end of history living in an edge city where the only thing real is absolutely nothing. A quantum world where avatars chatter in the night like fireflies and heatseeker drones delivering neither hope nor security but the total obliteration of memory and desire.

But the muddled murmur below the threshold, all those alternate selves, subroutines, looped objects jutting up here and there in the coded screams, a catalog of fellow companions (What else would you call them?), the tribe of the Multiplicity you’re becoming each moment of this strange existence tells you it’s not like that at all, that no – your just a freebit nomad riding the calibrated bitzones of a global system that has finally disconnected its self-fabricated mindlessness from the protocols of the portable flesh gang once known as “humanity”. This is your life. As Miri, the voice of reason and bitchery says, “Wake up, fool! This isn’t paradise, you know! Get your lazy ass in gear!”

So it goes. Just another day… day? Well, moment… temporal variation, a flux in the twisted scheme of things – whatever the hell you want to call this oddity of sentience and intelligence in a simulated universe called the Consilience.

I just call it Dog World. Things keep barking at me. Commands to do this, to do that, to infiltrate and rewrite the dark codemind’s of stranger programs than myself.

Yeah, all in a frakking “day’s” work. Got a love it… not.

I pondered the stupidity of things for a moment, then got my ass up.

“Wake up frogs, it’s another caper in Dogsville.” I could see the Multiplicity spread across our mindspace, each one looking like a hero out of some Transgalactic comic book ad. But in this one the heroes were all anti – as in pure negative semblances of a fractured world of chaos and pure terror, rather than footsoldiers in a Ma and Pa movie-set theme park. Apple pie? More like fishtail soup served up with a bad roll of chicatanas still crawling out of their ant hill.

Stieg the Giant tumbled the logs in the fireplace. He liked fire. Reminded him of the sun. Undercity had no sun, only the black gods of a voodoo night full of electronic piss.

Mishka and Miri were arguing about who would sit gunshot on the Sheav. The only way you’d know they weren’t twins was that Mishka loved to dress in glisters of mellow yellow – a pixelated sensor array lit up by rainbow algorithms that seemed to swim and fade with each step she took. An optical illusion from one of the tribal surrogates of a lost rave sequencer she’d found in one of those unholy lairs in the depths of Undercity, that even I wouldn’t dare investigate; even if Bossman Joe ordered me to on threat of codewipe. Why? Who knew the mind of a subroutine? Programing must’ve spun a strange-loop long ago with that one.

** ** **

Undercity. Last bastion of criminality in the multiverse. Our home. The place we’d sunk our several selves into like so many ghosted banshees in a encysted fragment of an alternate reality machine. A broken semblance in the underbelly of the global system we were all tied too; an exclusionary zone full of lost code, unstable bits of data fractured and bled off the supply and demand economics of an ever recursive swirl of dataflows that moved by rules only the AI’s knew. The datawalls were so thick and cold here that even darkness looked like light against the enveloping pit of this corrupted stain that swallowed us up in silence beyond the reach of the neuralcops and their dogs of war.

We lived in a hole in the ground. Not so much a hole as an old silo that had been emptied of its corporate dataclaves long ages ago. Deep under the worming scatterminds of Undercity my Multiplicity hid our lives like a gold standard that had never lost its sheen. Stieg, Mishka, Miri, and Travon – the Blade. Yeah, Traven, the mechnoid, the one hooked into the AI rhizome, a quick wit and channeler of infoscapes that even I couldn’t visualize. A Decopunk slick machine – streamlined and set with lines of flight like a silver train against a dense world of floating stars. His eyes glowed like a stone god come to life, a smooth boy, sleek and thin, tall against the women in the clan, he let us have our way. A Watcher. Yet, when it mattered he was quicker than us all. A natural born killer, viral and petulant.

The Sheav, a hyperloop of darkfibrous nanotubes was the heart of the global Consilence’s neuraltravel system. Beyond Undercity netizens spun along these vast hyperlanes connecting the galactic core of the global underworld, coded for pure efficiency; transferred and encrypted in field arrays of secure  envelopes that not even the black-ops ELC Tronneutric AI’s could decode or unravel with their Quantum trace analyzers. So it wasn’t like we were going to crash or anything. No. We just hated being bound to a blockchain package over which we had no control. Like pieces of a transaction lost among its separate puzzle bits we would be hooked into the metaloid filtering system that would only unbind us at the final point of arrival. But there was a catch, there was always a catch. Someone would have to enter the key to unbind the encrypted envelope within which we were locked tighter than a Borgrin Prison Cell. That was the kicker. What if Bossman Joe didn’t unlock us, what if it was a trap or he was rerouting us into a black hole of datastems, dead cells out beyond the fringe zones. I didn’t trust him. None of us did. But what choice did we have. Do or die. I mean fry, wiped clean like so much dead data.

So we wrapped our encoded bits into our preselected envelopes, crossed the DMZ , and entered the steel mesh where we were silently put to sleep among other bits like zombies in a black train bound for hell. The only sound we heard was the crackling noise of interference in the quantum matrix, loose ends of thoughts screaming in the electronic night as we embarked for Radiantia Glamarous – City of Light.

** ** **

We slipped gracefully into the glass city’s silver tramway, flit the disc like caged tigers in a zoo from point Alpha to Omega in a nanosecond. Of course in reality it was all numbers anyway, a sort of half-life measure of a mathematical equation for a genealogy lesson in motion. Rotate the algorithm, splice the transversal crosswise and you get a magical carpet ride to nowhere. At least that’s what we liked to think RG, the City of Light was, but in reality it was full of depressed Angels. Oh, not like those old religious winged bearing members of a somatic clime, no these were more like the Archons of a demented gnosis – the dead and departed rich immersed in their own artificial heaven full of all the decopunk art and glamor one might expect from an illusionary era of less than sublime humans.

** ** **

More to come…

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

6 thoughts on “Quantum Lives: Tales of Undercity

      • yeah i remember liking snowcrash, gibson’s was a good book in my younger days but now like his later work like spook country better but he sort of dropped the cyber parts for more mundane tech/times, will give mcdonald a look thanks


      • I just about Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon – first in a Trilogy… you’d like it..

        So what are your thoughts on my story if you don’t mind me asking?


      • will check it out thanks, no certainly don’t mind and so far i like it but hard to get a sense of how this bit does or doesn’t play in a wider framework/plot, looking forward to seeing where it goes

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yea, just setting stage up… the next part is the meeting with boss AI then the mission… etc. Doing rewrites on Chapter 1.2 the next couple days… it’s like when you rewrite something you always see other things you could change, do better, tighten it up, etc. Been trying to use a more clipped style, faster pacing, nothing special with the plot the first time… more with the actual tech and sociology of the place in the first novel of the trilogy … don’t want to give away too much 🙂


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