Don't ask about the name. Seriously, it is so much more interesting if you don't ask.
When the most interesting thing about your life is your slightly unusual name, you know you are in trouble. Or at least that is what Genevieve used to think. Now she wishes she she could go back to that. Eight months ago Genevieve and her father were hit by a car doing 60 in a residential area. Her father was killed instantly. Now, all she has is her mother and older sister (a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins). The death brought them all closer together - they are a family like they haven't been since Genevieve was still in diapers. She knows they have her back and that she has theirs.
Genevieve still hasn't fully made her peace with her bereavement, but she is on the right path and she is making progress. That isn't what is keeping her awake at night. No, what is keeping her up till the small hours of the morning every night is Isaac-fucking-Newton. Thing is, when 1.5 tonnes of metal hits 85kg of person at 60mph there is only one possible consequence. Equal and opposite fucking force and all that. What is not possible, what Isaac Newton never never predicted, is that the car is stopped dead and totalled and the 85kg of fragile body is unharmed. The force had to go somewhere!
Of course it did go somewhere, not that Isaac-arsing-Newton has anything useful to say about it. At the precise moment that she was hit by the car Genevieve's body stayed precisely where it was, but something she has taken to calling “My numinous-shitting-being” was flung 30 feet back and into a brick wall. Immaterial, invisible, spirit-bodied it turned out to be less of a barrier than it was for her father's broken corpse. It took her over a week to find her body again - during which time she was in a doctor-baffling coma1).
Now Genevieve has spent months improving her technique and can knock her soul free from her body with a simple tap from a hammer on her chest. Unfortunately this greater sensitivity seems to have interfered with her ability to take a hit. A month ago she gave herself a concussion running into a wall to go travelling.
Death in the Family
Genevieve's father, Hank, died.
Genevieve's mother, Louise, is still spry and fit and spent twenty years working as a security consultant for major multinationals setting up business in less stable areas of the world. She knows the ins-and-outs of every major security technology, and more importantly the sorts of processes and procedures which surround them.
Genevieve's sister, Primrose, is a top neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. With an incisive intellect, and older sister's slightly patronising manner and a drive to succeed there is little that Primrose won't lecture Genevieve on. Often, infuriatingly, she is right.
Out of Body Experience
Genevieve was hit by a car and was cast out into a sort of ghost-world. It was sort of like the scene on Weathertop in the Fellowship of the Rings, but without the Nazgul or Sauron. Actually far more worrying than either those (Dark Lord - pfah!) is the fact that some people don't show up in this ghost-world (only two confirmed cases in 8 months of experimenting), and some people only show up in it (and these people are definitely not other numinous-fucking-presences either - they use doors and everything).
What is it that Isaac Newton didn't know? ALternately, what is the hidden truth to this world?
Izabella Herovan is an architect from Sao Paulo. She is involved in regeneration projects around the city in an effort to improve slum areas. This is not without difficulties and over the past years she has encountered residents who don't want to change, greedy property developers who want to make a profit, criminal gangs who dislike anyone upsetting their enterprises and a good smattering of corrupt politicians and officials. She perseveres however, determined to change the face of her city for the better despite the many obstacles in her way.
She loves her job, she grew up in a poorer part of Sao Paulo and while she was brought up in a loving household, it wasn't easy and she was driven to study and try and improve her lot. She's managed to get out of the slums, got through university, and then got a job with a regeneration effort where she is now one of the chief architects. She desperately wants to clean up the area where she grew up and improve her family's lot. Her parents still live in the area and refuse to leave. Her younger brother, Gabriel, is just getting to the age where he's showing an interest in the local gangs and she is desperately afraid that he's going to end up like her older brother Rodrigo who was killed in a gang war clash a few years ago or her twin brother Luiz, who disappeared 6 months ago. Although they never found his body, everyone assumes that he's dead - she doesn't believe it though - she knows she would have felt it, they were always so close after all.
She's determined to clean up Sao Paulo (or as much of it as possible) both the city its self and the governance of it which is horribly corrupt. She sees remaking the city as a way of doing this, instilling hope in those less fortunate and empowering them to make things better for themselves (she believes that many of the people she knew growing up, good people, would make far better leaders than those currently in power if only they were given the chance). She made it out and she's going to try and help as many left behind as possible. She enjoys dancing and is a practitioner of parkour.
Izabella and Luiz both used to have odd dreams, sometimes they'd wake up having had the same dream right down to the details of the clothes worn by those they saw and the phrases they spoke. They could describe things that they couldn't possibly have known from each other’s dreams.
A dream I hope was prophetic: I had a dream of the worst area of Sao Paolo, but instead of the shanty town as it is, it was gleaming marble with clean streets and at its centre, a large and impressive building bearing my name.
A dream I hope wasn't prophetic: I had a dream of blood and smoke. The streets were full of broken glass and screams. There is the sound of motorbikes nearby, the biker gangs of the area run riot. I turn and there is Luiz with a shotgun pointed at my chest.
Izabella first became aware that she was haunted at her Grandmother's funeral. She had returned to her grandmother's house and became convinced that her grandmother was still there. She believes it is the spirit of her grandmother watching over her granddaughter and warning her of imminent danger. Over the years it has scared away those who might mean her harm (thugs suddenly crossing the road away from her when they'd been getting a little too close etc.) and gently 'helped' her make decisions when she's had a choice to make (she perceives it as giving her grandmotherly advice). Grandmother appears to have weak telekinetic abilities.
She communicates with it by first gaining its attention by singing an old folk song her grandmother taught her, then it whispers in her ears and she whispers back to it.
What happened to Luiz?
The world will only give you what you take. Charity is only for those who have more than they could ever need.
Marian was orphaned at a young age when a tornado of unusual ferocity swept through her village ripping building apart and scattering them to the four winds. Marian herself was found seemingly unharmed amidst the debris several days later clutching a blanket amid the devastation.
She grew falling in and out of the system, never staying in one place long enough to call it home or find anyone she could truly trust. Eventually she fell in with a group of grifters. They started off small hustling on the streets to survive. Gradually the cons grew however until they were living the high-life going after bigger and bigger scores. This all came to an end with the Paratech score. They ended up coming out with something they didn’t understand – something that scattered the gang to the wind. Several turned up dead, seemingly having keeled over for no reason, and now the rest have dropped out of contact and gone to ground.
Now Marian travels alone. Her new gifts make the art of the con easier than ever but her glimpse into a world beyond that which she had assumed was real has left mere survival an unsatisfying prospect. Now she wants to know what she has missed all her life and as she travels she will do whatever it takes to get the answers.
As a young child Marian was a lone survivor of a tornado which swept through her village. She was found days later amongst the devastation and rubble miraculously unhurt as all around her was a picture of devastation.
Marian and her crew were pulling a job on Paratech industries attempting to get the C.E.O to invest in a fake start-up to concerned with matching people up to the perfect product. The pitch seemed to go well and it was promised that they would be given everything they needed for there start-up to succeed. When they left however no money was transferred. Instead Marian began to feel an itching at the back of her head pushing her towards what those around her wanted. As it became clear there was something mysterious about Paratech the gang split up and fled – since then several of them have turned up dead.
Paratech seem to be more than they appear. Marian wants to find out who they are and what they do.
The problem with normal people is that they don't really get modern computing. It's not about metal boxes any more – distributed architecture, IaaS, commodity computing and the Cloud all mean that for those who can really see it, computer systems can be alive! The time has come for people who understand that vision to start disrupting the tech world – or as it was in 2013 and still is, the world.
Clive had built something brilliant, something new and something organic. Hours, days, months of painstaking work, tweaking, upgrading, modifying, switching in a server here, re-writing an API there, extending, expanding until what he was building looked, and more importantly, behaved like something out of science fiction, all paid for by a Kickstarter that broke all records – the Omniscience Engine. Crap name, far too cheesy but he had to come up with something to put on the header, and the graphic designers did a great job with the logo and the merch, so he got away with it.
The Engine (as he tended to call it himself) read in from every conceivable feed of news, information and trends and came up with predictions, from what would be in style next season to where the next major outbreak of infectious disease would occur. He was a bit behind completion date, but damn nearly there, helped by the late-in-the-day addition of some investors who apparently had serious ties to big business and government, and given that almost all of the predictions he'd sent out to his exclusive backer feed came true, his followers and backers were dedicated enough to suffer a bit of waiting before the final engine launched – looking forward to their free months or years of access to the Premium Prediction Feed.
And then, one day, it was gone. Clive went to log into his infrastructure account, and the password didn't work. He went to log into the account set up to mirror the first, and that was a bust too. He called up the provider on the premium support line, and was told that they had no record of his support contract. However, the person on the far end of the line was literally one of his backers, and was easily persuaded to take it up the chain, and after some frantic calls between company high ups, a consensus was reached that yes, Clive definitely had over 600 servers running on their infrastructure yesterday, but today there was no evidence of any of the data backing any of them existing, all server and database backups had been wiped (including from the tapes), and for all intents and purposes it was as if the Omniscience Engine never existed.
This was horrifying. Unthinkable. Clive quickly got a round table of some of his closest confidants, and the first thing they asked was whether he had full documentation. Clive exploded. You simply don't document something like that, as far as he was concerned, it's just too organic. Technically, the vague plan had been to get some third parties in to document the system after go-live, but the risk of both copies of the architecture, hosted in completely different parts of the world, going dark had just not seemed realistic. The Omniscience Engine was gone, and while Clive was sure he could rebuild it, the process was going to take years – and the backers wouldn't wait that long before wanting refunds of money he no longer had.
That was where some of the late-stage investors came in. Somehow, they found out about the incident ahead of any announcement (they said something about the CTO of the cloud provider telling them over lunch) and, incredibly, they wanted to help. They sent Clive a contract – they wanted to engage him on retainer to look at complex IT problems for him, and in exchange they'd simply make the backer problem go away. They promised to make phonecalls, and gave Clive a number he could call to get one of their problem solvers at any time of the day. Clive was sceptical, but had nothing to lose, so he signed.
Incredibly, almost impossibly, they were as good as their word. Somehow, in less than two months, the campaign had been wound up, and not a single backer sued. Meanwhile, a steady stream of quite challenging queries came in – one or two a week, clearly abstracted parts of greater wholes, but really interesting and well within Clive's capabilities – which he felt was more than a fair price for what they'd done for him. Even better, they'd offered to fund and continue to support his attempt to rebuild the Omniscience Engine from scratch, which he's been making a start on. It's tough going though – the finished product bore so little resemblance to his first steps on the first go that he's really struggling to piece it together – but it's coming, or most of it. The bit he's really missing for now is some of the low level optimisation code from the stream processor layer – the first pass was written in a 30 hour session that he only vaguley remembers, powered by some pre-market stimulant he got from another Kickstarter (which apparently never went to market, some sort of trouble with the FDA). It's just not coming together.
Meanwhile, the requests from his investors are getting more frequent. Still interesting (though some are frankly a bit weird at this point, they're clearly trying something odd and new), still reasonable given how much they're effectively paying him, but an annoying intrusion on his time. And worst of all, he's starting to suspect that the original Omniscience Engine isn't quite as gone as he thought. It's easy to miss, but Clive is obsessive, and there's this fashion blog, right, and every prediction it's made about trends for the last 6 months has been dead on. He did a bit of digging, and found something interesting – the blog is run out of a small town in Ireland, and recently, a bit player cloud provider whose datacentre is just outside the town suddenly stopped providing public services after some sort of corporate buyout, while simultaneously tripling their local workforce and apparently putting huge investment into the area. What if the engine wasn't destroyed, but stolen?
Clive's serious investors have been a huge help over the years, and without them it's quite likely he would have ended up destitute or in prison. They're clearly building up something really special or odd with his help though, and the extent of their ability to square all of his backers was quite extraordinary.
The Omniscience Engine was going to change the world. Clive is more and more sure that someone stole it. He wants it back.
What are his benefactors actually trying to achieve? It's clearly not an Omniscience Engine of their own, but elements are similar? What are they going to do with it once it's done?