Breakwall - Special - Transition
Neo-Atlantis sends it’s regards
A re-upload of our International Podcast Month special for those who might not have caught it during IPM2019. The Transition Anthology consists of three stand alone stories that help build and develop the world of Neo-Atlantis alongside some exciting guest voices! Follow us on Twitter for news and updates. Join us on discord to hang out with cast and crew! Want to support the show? Please check out our Patreon as Cybernautica is 100% Fan Supported!
Cybernautica is intended for mature audiences on account of mature language, theme and violence. Please be advised that this episode includes traumatic flashbacks.
Sarah Rhea Werner as Alice
Alexander Doddy as Nick Ballard
Amanda Hufford as Lucy Deville
A.R. Olivieri as Andrew Indri
Dan Boud as the Narrator
Written, Designed and Edited by Damian Szydlo
Script Editing by Jupiter Sanders
Show theme by Doug Maxwell
Music and Sound Effects from Syrinscape, Fesliyan Studios & Audioblocks
CYBERNAUTICA: IPM 1.0 - THE DRIVER
[The sound of the Flightcar brings us into the scene. Engines can be heard mixed with the sound of rain]
“It’s been… a long day.”
Indeed it had been. Tears now long dry had left their mark on Alice Anders; trails of dark eyeliner and eyeshadow stained her complection to become a sort of warpaint, as if to harden her for the choice to come. Impossibly blue eyes kept their sight locked onto the flight-paths set above the streets of Attica as traffic proceeded in a slow progression both in the air and on the ground below. She could have turned the autopilot on but it always felt like cheating to her. Like taking a shortcut or perhaps choosing to relinquish some small bit of control she had on life. The highrise arcology housing district that stood around the lines of traffic were the successor to what Arcadia had once been. The district might have felt crowded or confined if it weren’t so efficiently designed. Hundreds and thousands of apartments, most of which would be considered luxury residence by the standards of the old world; adorned with the gold alloy new-deco styled trimming and sculpture favored throughout Neo-Atlantis. All of this reflected itself in her tired eyes, the glow of lights from windows where-in existed countless perfect little lives privileged to have been valuable enough in the eyes of Kraken Technologies or some such subsidiary of theirs… to merit a citizenship in this brave new world.
“They’re all the same. Aren’t they? Every apartment. Which means they’re probably not perfect at all? Rather they’re someone's idea of what perfect could be.
If this is going to be like a memoir or something then I should probably start at the beginning. My name is Alice. I live in Sector 36 of Neo-Atlantian District 7. Nobody here really calls it that… District 7 I mean. We just call it Attica. I was born here. My dad was… well he was mostly a good man. This isn’t about who he was though and more about what he was. He was a contractor. How it works in Neo-Atlantis is that Kraken gives the districts certain allowances for things that are vital to running the city down here. Security or preservation and maintenance, general upkeep that kind of thing. Sometimes it’s dealt out by like… a lottery, sometimes it’s done by bids that are assessed and curated by computers. It’s… always seemed to me more like luck than anything; getting those kinds of contracts. But it’s never people. You’re never dealing with actual people or politicians. ‘They’ don’t operate that way. I’ve never met or… seen anyone who actually works for Kraken. Which is saying something because unlike my father, I work for one of their subsidiaries. Caldwell Enterprises to be exact.
Yeah, I’m one of ‘those’ people. Usually when we think of Kraken in this city we think of one of the corporation’s many arms. That’s because they stay up there in the Core. Above us like they’re the heirs of the world or maybe benevolent demigods. Larger than life. So instead of Kraken maybe you think of a division like Caprica and their top-end cybernetics. Or maybe Atlas with their construction and military interests? Caldwell… does vehicles, mostly. If you drive it on the ground or fly it through the air in 2112, it’s probably designed by us. Sounds pretty ace, right?
Well it’s not. At least not for me. Not… not anymore. Which is weird to say because this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this. Everyday when it’s just me and my car, driving home… I think about it. Today was different though. Today my dad was working up on a Sky-Barge. Or that’s what they told me. They were parked beside one of the housing blocks, repairing some fire damage. Really basic work, but dad was holding a contract down for Sector 82. I don’t want to draw this out so I’m going to get to the point. Something… went wrong and… the grav-engines on the barge’s left side gave out. The failure caused a catastrophic overload in the vehicles stabilization systems and it… fell. Out of the sky. My dad didn’t make it.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I… designed the 2103 Caldwell Sky-Barge. Or at least I was on the team that built it. I’m not naive or self centered enough to believe that I killed my father. That’s… stupid. And not helpful. I know that the chances of this sort of failure are SO infinitely small. Small enough to be a theoretical act of God. So I want to repeat… I did not kill my dad.
Wow. That was… harder to say then I thought it was going to be.
So, why am I up here talking into a Holo-Comm and leaving my life story for my ex-boyfriend knowing he never really checks his messages at all? I think I just need to talk… to something, you know? Talk myself through this. What it all means and what this has snowballed into.
Look. Three hours after my father was identified and pronounced dead his apartment was already cleared out. Two hours after that a new family was moving in. His personal effects were sent to my mom and I, which consisted of a plastic crate no more than about a meter squared. I’ve… been living with her since the divorce so we opened it together.
That was it. That was… my dad. Just… gone. Shuffled out of the deck. A perfect little life swapped out for another as the machine just keeps turning. And for what? Tomorrow a new contractor will pull up next to that building and repair the damage my dad was fixing… and look, I’m not saying that nobody will care. I mean maybe I made it sound like that but we’re not like that here. We CAN’T be like that and live in a system like this without going cold to everything. Life isn’t cheap in Neo-Atlantis even if it sometimes feels that way. But it IS efficient. ‘Perfect’.”
Alice’s flightcar stopped, pulling over to hover at a divergence as traffic continued to sweep past her. Closing her eyes she held her breath as her stomach felt like it had constricted into an anxious ball. She’d been driving over an hour to get to this spot. A spot she’d driven past so many times before. A left turn would allow her to rejoin traffic, go back to her life and eventually, she’d just move on. A right would take her off the grid through service flight-paths that would eventually lead out of Attica. They’d skirt along the edge of the district before finally leading to the neon and shadow of Arcadia.
“So here we are. Again. Every time I end up here I think about how almost everything I own has its own contract. My couch doesn’t really belong to me. I have a state of the art holo-projector in my living room, also not actually mine. It all belongs to Caldwell and just like my dad, if something ever happened to me it’d be refinished and transitioned to the person moving into my apartment. I don’t ‘actually’ own very many things, now that I think of it. Just this car.
It wasn’t easy, buying a car that didn’t have a contract that inevitably led back to making it Caldwell’s property in the end just like everything else is. I wanted it so bad, though… and here we are. It might not be great, it’s got some mileage on it and if you turn hard you can feel the engine labour a bit. I was so deadset and determined about this that I sold my luxury street car and hunted for MONTHS before finding this thing on the second hand market. The previous owner had paid almost three times the vehicles price tag to actually ‘own’ the thing. I guess they must have been a lot like me. I’m not going to lie, this car is a pain in the ass too. It always needs work and since it’s not on contract I have to pay out of pocket to get it done. Or do it myself. But it’s mine and that counts for something.
I don’t know if it’s really all that cliche to imagine a car as freedom. But that’s what it is to me. You know what else? Freedom isn’t efficient. It isn’t portioned out and predictable. Measured in systems and algorithms. It’s a real pain, just like this car is.
Saying all of that I guess it’s time to make this choice, once and for all. I don’t want to be at this crossroads anymore. If I turn left and rejoin traffic I will eventually get to my place. I’ll stand over my sink that isn't really mine and I’ll wash my face before going to bed. I’ll get up in the morning and I’ll go to Caldwell. Maybe I’ll pick up my phone and give you another chance that you probably don’t deserve. We’ll have kids and eventually we’ll die. That perfect little light in our apartment will go off one day… and then it’ll come back on and someone else will be living there. We’ll be mourned for the proper amount of time and the world will move on. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if we never really lived for ourselves. That we didn’t ever own anything and we were just renting our lives.
Or instead, maybe I turn right today. I go to Arcadia with the credits I have logged, just me and my car. I never go back to work at my comfortable job. I join the mix that is the Sprawl and I… well I guess life gets a lot harder. Perfect, measured lives don’t exist in Arcadia. I don't get to know what tomorrow brings.
I guess if you’re listening to this message and I didn’t just delete it… then I turned right. I want you to know that I love you. I hope you find what you need out there because we both know that it wasn’t us. I want you to know that I’ll be okay. I think I’ll actually be okay. It’s just… well I guess it’s just me, my choices and my car now. From here on out.”
CYBERNAUTICA: IPM 2.0 - THE BARTENDER
The legendary Fifty-Four Forty. A den of shuffle and jive where echoes of deals made and lost seemed to bounce off the walls of her hub even now as Lucy stood alone under its roof. Dim lights from a holo projection cast a shifting turquoise hue over the place as she felt the aged, varnished wood of the bar top under her hands as if it were the first time. The surface of the countertop was scarred, bearing the stains and scratches of too many years of use in both the new and old world. It stood as something of an attraction, actual wood being uncommon as it was here in Neo-Atlantis. Truly it was only one of many things that made the bar special. This place… It was a part of her just as the Fifty-Four Forty was a vital artery to the Arcadian Underworld. With its name came a brand that rose as one of the most reputable places to conduct a deal in the district. Taking a deep breath as if to take in air before a plunge, Lucy opened her eyes before looking up at the projected image of Nick Ballard.
“This is the hardest damned thing I’ve ever had to do, and sugar… I’ve done some things.”
“You’re certain about going through with this, then? Do you want to walk me through it, just to be sure? I’m a bartender after-all. We’re good at listening.”
“I appreciate it, Nick… but that’s just it, isn’t it? We’re not just ‘bartenders’. I think I would have liked being ‘just’ a bartender.
[sighs heavily, a heavy burden heavy on her mind.]
Alright. Have it your way. Tonight I close the doors on the Fifty-Four Forty. I upload all proprietary files to the central hub archive for reference and preservation. Ownership of the bar… and everything inside it’s walls… everything that I’ve built, goes to Nancy. She’s worked hard for this.”
“It’s obvious you’ve thought this through. Might I ask a bit of a… personal question, then? You’re younger than I am. Forged something of an empire with your hub while guys like me are licking at your scraps for a bite. Why walk away? It’s certainly not for fear as there’s not a thing in Neo-Atlantis except for maybe Kraken itself that could scare Lucy Deville off.”
[Lets out a quiet, resigned laugh.]
“I think I was pushed out by the only person who could have done it. Me. If you’re going to dig through, Nick, I’ll cut you in.
I’ve run this hub now for what, 13 years? Not the most auspicious number, but it’s the one that I’ve come to rest on. I’ve seen some shit.”
She ashed a still burning cigarette into its tray before bringing it to her lips for a long drag. She watched the holo-projection of her old friend flicker; his grim face and severe eyes somehow always culminating in an impression of kindness and patience rather than something more off-putting. Nick was a pillar. Something you could rest against; build upon, or perhaps even grow a life with. In another such life, she might have even considered giving that a try. With the smallest smirk in acknowledgement of that patience in practice, she nodded before continuing.
“That’s not unique to me, I know. You’ve seen what this business does to people. The people that don’t come back and the people they leave behind. It didn’t used to bother me. Now I can’t get it out of my head. We give them places like this and kids I personally tattooed work with old snakes for chips as we all try to break off some piece of the Neo-Atlantian dream together. But we don’t ever get it. None of us. Not the factions, not the mercs and you’re damn sure not us lowly go-betweens. Deputized fixers with delusions of grandeur, aren’t we all.
I suppose I just… that I’m seeing things through a lens, maybe for the first time in my life. I was so driven, Nick. I took on Arcadia and dared the storm to take me. Now though, I’m seeing colours I could never see before. Seeing what I’ve missed in the shuffle of chips and favors. I need to walk away. Start over again. Do you think we’re entitled to it, after everything we’ve done? The secrets we’ve kept and the lives they’ve claimed? Do you think we get to have a new beginning?
“I think that if anyone can, then it’s you.”
“That’s a kind thing to say. It’s a cop out, though, don’t you think?”
“That’s fair. Saw through that, did you? Honest truth of it, I think you’re being a bloody fool. I don’t believe in karma. Even less so in karmic debt. Which means I don’t believe you can earn… or lose a chance to do what’s best for you. You don’t owe anybody a damn thing.”
“If only that were true, sugar. There’s always a price in this city. It follows all of us. Aurum et Cinis et Mare Nostrum.
“Gold, Ashes and Sea. Our great, damned sea; the monster that she is. I’m going to miss you, Lucy. I’ll keep watch on Nancy. Insure she’s on the right side of this dance. That she doesn’t get caught up in the undertow.”
“She’ll be fine. You just… you just keep watch over your own, Nick. Especially that new batch of mercs you marked. Don’t hold anything back from them lest you one day grow a conscience like I did. Believe me, it’ll happen. We all cash out eventually.”
Looking down to her Holo-comm, she swiped the conversation away; terminating the image of her old friend and plunging the Fifty-Four Forty into a solemn darkness. She’d stay there for a while longer, tracing her fingers over every scar set into that weathered bartop. She knew that once she was done then the next step she made would be the first step towards the door… and into her retirement.
CYBERNAUTICA: IPM 3.0 - THE GENTLEMAN
[SCENE NOTE: The scene begins in a ruined building in Arcadia. It’s raining. A sole gunman is leaning against a wall, a bullet wound in his stomach has paralized him]
[Flashback to fighting, sounds of the Gentleman climbing a metal staircase, gunfire echoing around him.]
“I always knew it’d end up like this. Maybe not exactly like this but… exchange the place and the time. The conditions. It had to be this way. Had to be me, bleeding out and alone. Just me and the rain. I suppose I’d earned as much. Neo-Atlantis always takes its price.”
“This is the part of the story where I tell you that I regret the things I’ve done. I’m holding a blood covered hand against my stomach so that I can… keep myself together. The rain. It never stops. You think you’re out of it, maybe the sky clears for a little bit but it just keeps coming back. Wave after torrential, primal wave.”
The Gentleman, Andrew Indri, leaned his head back against the balcony wall. His once finley styled hair now a damp mop as it rested against the rough, chipped paint of the abandoned complex. In the room behind him lay the lifeless body of the man he’d been sent to kill while scattered throughout this old building lay others who had tried to protect him. That was more than six hours ago; before the business end of a shotgun had taken him in the gut.
“In this city… in it’s underworld there are two kinds of killers. The ones who follow the rules of the seven houses. Take chips from the factions and live by a backwards code of honor that haunts the streets down there in Arcadia. The biggest rule in that particular handbook is that they don’t take work out against their own. The factions might try to undercut one another often enough but they don’t hit each other directly… and those mercs they hire to get things done outside of their purview don’t kill other mercs. It’s the thing that keeps everything running in this rat race, from the hubs they deal in to the coins they covet. The Underworld Accord. Otherwise the real dark days of this district come back and nobody here makes any headway. That kind of war isn’t good for anyone. That was never me though.
Me? I’m that other kind of killer. The villain in someones story. Probably a lot of someones. [coughs]
When you accept a job, take money from the real bad guys out there… when you sell your soul and drop the ‘code’ then they have a different name for you. They stop calling you ‘Merc’. Stop paying you in chips and inviting you to deal at the hubs. The Accord no longer protects you and your name starts coming up on a blacklist. You start to find that your new benefactors have logos and… that new name they call you in whispers? It’s ‘Assassin’.
I want you to know that I came up through the gutters of Arcadia. I counted days there like it was a prison sentence. As if I was marking a cement wall with little ticks of chalk. I couldn’t stand the… anarchy of the place. The disorder and the scraping. That old world decay settling in everywhere while the streets just sort themselves out. From the squalor of the sprawl to the faux decadence the best of them played at. It always reminded me of… a squat covered in silk curtains. A prime example that simple rules didn’t equate to actual order. I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
The first ‘protected’ man I killed hired me for three chips. I think he was a broker for the Yakuza. I don’t even remember doing the job to be honest; which is saying a lot because I remember… just about everything. I held those gold coins in my hand, heard them clink together. Recognized my newfound wealth wasn’t currency at all but rather… favours. That I could cash in to people like him. Pretenders, in the scheme of things, all these factions were just begging for scraps from the lord's table and there was nothing they were offering that I couldn’t take for myself. So I shot him… I’d waited for him outside of the hub and I dropped the chips he’d paid me on his body before making a game-plan that would get me out of this district and into Attica.
Work was surprisingly easy to find for a man with flexible morals. Maybe even easier then where I’d come from. I don’t think that they want you to know that. Sure, the factions wanted me dead but I didn’t need them anymore. I found that there were many ‘new’ clients who were happy to pay in credits instead of chips. It’s hilarious to me that in Arcadia they actually consider credits to be ‘funny money’. Not so, not even in the slightest. I’ve done a lot with credits. I moved up. Took more lives. Worked as a security specialist for both Atlas and Caldwell. I ‘earned’ my citizenship and my place in Neo-Atlantis with service and blood. Bought in, got married and claimed my new life. I became part of the system and fell headlong in love with Kraken’s utopian dream.
They started calling me ‘The Gentleman’. I guess I don’t look the type to be a killer. Too boyish and not the kind at all to be concealing a silenced pistol. I was… really good at my job. Now I’m dead. Eventually. Once the blood loss finishes the job the bullet started.
I think we all know by now that when I said this was the part of the story that I convey my regret to you… well I wasn’t being entirely sincere. In this city, someone’s always holding your chain. The Arcadians want to believe they’re independent, free. Exempt from working for the man without realizing ‘the man’ is all around them. He’s just wearing different clothes and offering different deals. Maybe I’m wrong… but it’s not going to matter soon.” [Coughs again]
With a blood covered, shaking hand Mr. Indri removed his watch. He placed it slowly beside himself, careful not to set it in the large red pool that had formed around him. Beside it, he gently placed his pistol, followed by his holo-comm. Wincing against the awkward, mortal wound and the throbbing pain it was pushing through his body; the man commanded the device to project and display a small, still image of his husband. With a sad smile, he raised his face to the sky, letting the water pelt against his skin before he could feel it no longer.