You see, I have a bit of a commedia dell'arte in my head. There are certain stock actors who play vaguely similar stock characters.
Now the character may vary from Will Scarlet to American journalist Charlie Doyle to near future psychopath Nick Boyd. I have to keep changing the personality to keep from repeating the same stories over and over.
But Nick (Boyd, Harper or Admire), Charlie, Sean, Ian, Josh, Jace, Ambrose or Henry, he tends to look like this:
(That's Aaron Stanford in XMen 2)
Nick is a jack of all work, filling in most of the younger male roles.
What happens when I need an older man? Oh there are those as well. It depends on what I am needing, mostly.
But my David is a flexible man, as long as the character is both brilliant and gay. (He did turn out to be bisexual once, to my very great shock)
(David Krumholz and John Glover from an episode of Numb3rs)
That bit of eye-candy is a two-fer, because You get Dan, whose job is usually simply to be adorable, but sometimes to save the world, as well as David. Dan first showed up when I was writing the Christmas werewolf piece, as Dr. Danior Camomescro, English prof and werewolf. He's also made his mark on the cyberpunk universe I write as Niall O'Neill, a netrunner called the Timberwolf.
So let's talk a little about my cyberpunk universe. In this reality, the true wealth is data. Corporations have it. Netrunners steal it. I started playing in it some years back, and the characters came out a little different than they usually were. And somehow or another, I've managed to write a full length heterosexual novel in this 'verse.
You have Zara, The Technomancer, a beautiful, icy woman who is in love with a CEO called Gemini. There's Sean (a Nick, see above) whose gorgeous wife, Irishgirl, is a premier cyberthief, rivaled only by his brother Niall (a Dan). The Wheelman (a David) is a psychopathic monster of a CEO who maims and enslaves captured Netrunners. Zara's twin brother, Zaran, is working to get her back, or Sean's wife in his clutches, one of the two. A pair of minor characters, maimed Netrunners, show up in several of the stories, one is a merman in the Net, the other a 1920s PI.
And today, I acquired the ultimate piece of eyecandy for this 'verse. I blame Irishgirl for the set design--she has a wicked sense of humor--but the facial expressions are perfect. You can almost hear Zaran hissing "Smile, dear sister. People are watching."
Name the actors and movie for this picture, and be entered to win all three cyberpunk stories:
Pushing the Boundaries of Reality (Out of Print)
"Ah good, you're awake, Mr. O'Neill."
Sean looked up from his computer to see a handsome man in a well-tailored suit that hid most of his height and mass come into his hospital room. Before he could say anything, Gemini sat in the lone chair, opened his briefcase on his knees and made himself comfortable. The big man seemed to fill the room with his presence. Sean felt crowded, even with a whole hospital room between them.
They had had dealings a few times before, mostly through a series of convoluted business contacts. The top of the ladder did not hobnob with the part-time contractors they hired to do their dirty work, even when that dirty work involved monitoring and distracting a certain talented lady. Ah, but the thought of Caitlin, missing since two months after their wedding, hurt. He didn't want to think about his wife, or the fact that the simple initial assignment from Gemini had become so much more.
She'd been out of his league from the start, even when he was just doing courier work for her on his own. Niall had been freelancing for Leda then, and Sean was sleeping on his couch between crashpads. Word got to Gemini that Sean knew Caitlin. He suspected Niall was the informant, but not in a malicious way. Gemini paid him well to ingratiate himself to her. He liked her anyway, so the job was no hard task. Ingratiation turned to infatuation and then love. That was when things got messy. Love made everything messy. He wrenched his thoughts back to the man in front of him, wondering if he was to be disposed of after his accident or given a new assignment.
Sean never forgot a face and Gemini's was memorable, even though Sean had seen it only twice before in person. Holo-pics and footage of the media favorite were much more common. The camera loved the devastatingly handsome Gemini--the star Net-runner for LedaCorp and wealthy philanthropist--and it captured him at all the best venues and openings, with one beautiful woman or another on his arm. His strongly Middle Eastern features were perfect for the desert bandit avatar he affected in the Net, but looked even more intimidating above a business suit. The air of supreme confidence born of having money and power followed him and filled every corner of the room until Sean found it hard to breathe. Maybe his method of execution would simply be Gemini intimidating him to death.
He stifled hysterics at that thought and answered, "Yes. Thanks to you, I expect."
"I'm sure you know by now that I have rescued your brother, Niall." He stroked the goatee he wore, a nervous habit that somehow indicated he had no nerves at all, only cold calculation.
Sean nodded. Niall was a Net-runner, the top-rated hacker called the Timberwolf, and he'd gotten his furry butt pinched on a run into EIT. The Wheelman's operation was considered the ultimate challenge for runners, the Holy Grail and The Forbidden Temple all wrapped in one. A successful Net-run against EIT was more impressive than a run against most other corporations, certainly more than any government or military sites.
It made the reputation of anyone who succeeded overnight. Impressive jobs, more impressive contacts, and unimaginable sums of money came in the wake of such a success. But the risks were as great as the rewards.
EIT made no secret that they had taken Timberwolf down. Each time a hacker with a strong reputation fell to their defenses, it meant days, weeks, or sometimes even months of decreased raids. Security measures could be tightened, which boosted profits, stock ratings, and reputation. All corporations hung the virtual heads of their vanquished foes on the Net-walls to warn off the more prudent. The sheer length of the threads and the eulogies for Niall on the underground hacker boards amazed Sean.
"He said you had when I talked to him. But how? Nobody gets away from the Wheelman." That was common knowledge. Ezekiel InfoTech was the pitcher-plant of the Net, luring runners in and drowning them, sometimes very personally. Many went in, almost none came out. Sean had told Niall not to take that run, but the Timberwolf only claimed he had to, with no more explanation or details. Sean always suspected his brother was pushed into taking that run, but had never been able to prove it. In the end, what did it matter? His brother was gone.
He'd been missing physically, too, lost for weeks. An EIT retrieval team had kicked down the apartment door one afternoon, according to the landlady, and taken him, running chair, computer and all, before he could jack out. Looters had gotten most of the rest of their joint stuff before Sean had returned from work. Only the built-in appliances were left. Even their dishes and clothes were gone. Sean had collected his toothbrush, the three remaining photos and moved out, almost hoping Niall was dead.
Black ice, fatal intrusion countermeasures, was a much cleaner way to go than years trapped in a life support chair as a quadruple amputee, fed by a tube and forced to run the Net as slave labor for the Wheelman. Or worse yet, taken into his bed alive and whole. The virtual tabloids had a field day with the chief of EIT's sex life, speculating endlessly on his taste for good-looking young men and his abilities since the accident that left him in the wheelchair.
"Even Erik Ezekiel can be persuaded, for the right price. I won't tell you what it cost us to get Niall back, but you both owe us a great deal. Niall is working out his debt in several ways." Gemini's smile left Sean no doubt that part of the work was being done in Gemini's bed. Erik Ezekiel was not the only power-player with a taste for good-looking Net-runners.
Gemini gestured at the hospital room. "We need you to begin working off yours."
"So what do you need from me?" Sean asked, afraid of what would be named. He had couriered and killed for this man, courted and married for him. There was little more Gemini could really ask, but he suspected Gemini would find something new and awful. Power and money seemed to turn men dark simply by virtue of having them.
He glanced at the private room, the constant IV, his chart, which was checked once a day by a real doctor and kept up to date by the nurses, the state-of-the-art scarless skin regrowth process he was enduring. The nurses had talked about physical therapy, too, once he could bear to stand on his feet. None of that came cheaply.
Had he survived the crash on his own, he would have limped to a doc-in-the-box for bandages and antibiotic ointment, maybe a debriding or some syntheskin patches if the price was in his reach, and taken his chances with the scarring. If he managed to survive opportunistic infections, and succeeded in not becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers, he would still never have needed another Halloween costume, except the cloak he'd have to wear in public to not have people cringe from the sight of him. Then again, in his neighborhood, nobody would notice much.
They still hadn't let him see his face in a mirror. He understood that was procedure for burn victims, but it felt strange. He suspected he wouldn't look much like he had once the skin regrowth was done.
Gemini reached into his briefcase, pulled a thick book from it, and dropped it on Sean's bed, real sheets of paper bound in leather, not simply a file on a chip to be stuck in a reader. Sean stared. He'd only seen a few actual books in his life, usually sealed within glass cases in upscale museums and cathedrals. Nobody used paged books anymore. They were for collectors and the eccentric wealthy.
"Study this. Memorize it and prepare to live it. We are asking much of you, including your own face, but we know you are capable of it. We expect great work from you, Sean..." Gemini's smile went dark and dangerous. "And great results."
Sean was still boggling at the book as Gemini left. He rubbed at the syntheskin that covered eighty percent of his body since the accident, picked up the book, and began to read. Print was hard going. Words stayed still instead of scrolling properly and he couldn't adjust the font to something easier to read. The book itself was unwieldy, roughly the size of a small computer and twice as heavy, larger than his hands. The heavy paper under the leather covers was immaculate, as if freshly printed just for him. He was almost afraid to touch it for fear of smudging or tearing it.
Entranced, yet horrified by the contents, he plunged onward. They had indeed come up with something new and awful.