The Start of A New Serial – The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls, Part 1

Hello everyone. Because I got a mad posh to do so, I’m serial fictioning again. This is a sort of cyberpunk noir, set in the near future, involving a genderfluid assassin, and a target that owns his own island. But things get odd, as they are wont to do. I will try and stay on a regular schedule if possible, but you know how life goes. I will update appropriately. As such, I also included a mini soundtrack for the chapters, because why not? I don’t know if I’ll do this each time, but we’ll see.

I realize I should be on Patreon to do this, but I feel like I could never post regularly enough to be worth it, and besides, I’d feel weird making my readers pay for my rambling. So if you can, or feel you’d like to, you can throw some cash in my Ko -Fi, or buy my books when they come out. That’s the best way to go about things.


Pawel Nolbert

The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls – Chapter 1 from notmanos on 8tracks Radio.

1 – The Difference Between You and Me Is I’m Not On Fire

I had barely heard of Nishinoshima Island until I was hired to kill Jared Rogen.

It had been called the Dubai of the Pacific Rim, not because of its dubious human rights record, but because it was a high tech wonderland that only the wealthy could afford, or visit. Jared had entered into a secret deal with the Japanese government over ownership of it, as at the time Nishinoshima was only famous for its volcanic instability, the reason for its existence. Jared invented and used some proprietary invention to stabilize the volcano and use it as a geothermic power source for the island, with excess shunted out to Tokyo. A win/win for everyone … in theory. But wherever Jared Rogen went, catastrophe followed.

He was one of those sociopathic tech bros, who made a billion overnight in monetizing other people’s information and privacy. He was an asshole who only cared for his own well being, the exact kind of person who ran the world, and ran it straight into the ground. He had many enemies, including at least one government, so the fact that someone wanted him dead wasn’t a surprise. A lot of people wanted him dead. If collective will could kill someone, he would be ten years gone, and there’d be no grave, as he would have been vaporized by the sheer volume of ill will blasted in his direction.

His inventions were shit, and had so pervasively data mined that it was almost impossible to be on the internet and not have been compromised by him in some fashion. If so many people hadn’t earned an assload of money from this, maybe the powers that be would have cared a bit more. He took his billions, and invested in space travel, like most of the tech bros, assuming they could flee to space and leave the poors behind on the dying Earth, except the not so slow motion apocalypse was happening much faster than any leaps in space technology. It was starting to look like the rich robber barons were going to die on this trashed planet with the rest of us, and boy, did that piss them off.

Jared went the classic supervillain route, buying himself an island, and basically declaring himself a sovereign nation, although that was not perfectly true. The Japanese government still owned half of it, and it was technically a Japanese territory, but his wealth bought him a lot of leash. And nobody seemed to care about truth anymore, so if Jared said he was the King of a fiefdom, he was so to a significant chunk of the population.

Getting to Nishinoshima was difficult. You needed to know someone who would vouch for you, someone either on the island already, or an extremely wealthy person that had connections to other wealthy people who kind of knew people Jared knew. Once that hurdle had been cleared, you need to buy a twenty thousand dollar 48 hour “pass” to the island. You were instructed to keep the pass with you at all times, otherwise you would be escorted off the island ahead of time. There was also only one way to the island, through a special fleet of water taxis, as the island was surrounded by an adaptive sea wall system, keeping out the rising ocean, and allowing for a gate and other “security measures” to keep out any riffraff who tried to get in without paying. It was the first gated community island.

But there was a problem with having a rich man’s paradise island. Namely, who would clean up after them, and make their food, and cater to their every whim? Yes, some robot technology could cover this, but not all, not successfully, and you couldn’t look down upon, humiliate, or sexually assault a robot. You needed humans for this, but no menial laborer could afford the admission.

So that’s where the human trafficking began.

It was always contractors, people who couldn’t be tied to Jared in any official way, often paid off in cryptocurrency for an added layer of protection. They’d smuggle people in under the cover of a “supply ship”, workers often from Malaysia or mainland China. Once there, they’d be put to work in what was one step removed for indentured servitude. They couldn’t enjoy the island, nor escape it. They would spend their days tending to the whims of a white upper class that saw them as lower beings than the robots who did the other tasks. One person’s paradise was another person’s hell, ever and always amen. Occasionally stories would leak out, and human rights organizations would throw a shit fit about not being allowed inside, but no one really cared. The world was ending, and it was smoke ‘em if you got ‘em time. Who cared if you were abusing people while half the world flooded, and the other half burned? The human race would be extinct soon.

But while no one cared about the suffering of more foreign people, Jared still had his rich stable of enemies, one of whom got my name and number from a former satisfied customer. I’m not cheap, but I have a hundred percent kill rate, and I haven’t been caught yet. For a very good reason – I’m nobody.

Really I am. I’m genderfluid enough to pass for female or male, depending on the guise I want to adopt, but I have the bad fortune to be seen as too masculine for a woman, and too feminine for a man. But I’m nobody’s idea of a good time, and being sexually undesirable is basically an invisibility cloak around your average man. Some men don’t care if you’re attractive, just as long as you have a hole they can use, but they don’t last long around me. They’re easy to spot, with eyes so dead it puts sharks to shame. Interpol has nicknamed me “The Phantom”, making me sound like some sad old superhero, and the worst part is, they have about two-thirds of my actual kills.

I’m not important or memorable. I am a gray person among many gray people. I am functionally invisible. I could be in a room, and you would forget I was there. Which is why I have lasted so long on Interpol’s wanted list without a single photo or witness sketch of me. I’ve killed people in crowded rooms, only for no one to remember I was there, or to think I was somehow connected to what happened. You may have even met me, but you won’t recall it. I have nothing to offer to you or the world. I’m a blank slate. And that’s how I will kill you if I have to. As you die, you’ll wonder who did it. I don’t feel bad for you, because I’ve never killed a saint. Mostly I kill the rich for the other rich, who have no compunction about sanctioning murders of their friends. If anything, they usually regret not being able to do it themselves. But they are cowards who never want to get their hands dirty, so that was never going to happen in the first place.

The client didn’t care about the trafficking or human slavery. He wanted Jared dead for screwing him on a business deal, and landing the twenty year old Japanese model he wanted to nail. Morality means nothing next to a rich man’s libido.

He arranged for me to get a pass to Nishinoshima, in the guise of Janna Delora, a reclusive fashion designer. This allowed me to style my hair outrageously, with one side short, and the other longer, with gelled, styled bangs that covered my left eye like hair icicles, and my right eye had a cat’s eye contact in, so I looked slit pupiled and like I was taking the new Goth wave a little too far. This was to fool facial recognition software, which, when combined with the mask covering the lower half of my face, wouldn’t even know how to classify me. The mask was simple black, sort of like the medical masks most people in Tokyo wore, only this one lit up with noise, showing an electronic line like a cardiograph. In this case, I would stand out, but for a very good reason. People might notice me, but I was more concerned about the security software. People were limited. AI talked to everything that would listen.

The water taxi people must have been super jaded by now, as the driver, a local in a windbreaker advertising some energy drink, didn’t even give me a second glance. He simply checked his roster, scanned my code, and we were off to Nishinoshima.

The water was gray, the day overcast, but it was as humid as hell. I was wearing one of those cape/batwing jacket things that seem to be the fashion right now, and I wanted to rip it off, but I didn’t dare. The cape was high fashion; the rest of my clothes weren’t. I had to hide that as long as I could, even though I had an excuse for that. It was “retro boho chic”. No, I didn’t know what that meant, but I figured other people wouldn’t either. Say it with enough disdain, and no one would ask questions.

Nishinoshima seemed to suddenly appear, as if a veil of fog had been deliberately draped between the horizon and it, and someone drew it back. But it wasn’t an island you saw. It was a ring of grayish-blue metal, the high tech sea walls keeping back the hungry ocean. It had a full on futuristic look, the metal – ? – corrugated like cardboard. It seemed like nothing happened, but the sensor readout on my wrist, disguised as a smart watch – part of that retro boho chic – told me there was a brief flair of information. A transponder on the water taxi, signaling something over on Nishinoshima, letting the resident security AI know it was all clear to open the gate. As we approached, the driver never slowing, part of the wall retracted into itself, revealing a floating pier like a sleek animatronic tongue. Lights lit up on the edges as the water taxi slowed down, like an airport landing strip.

As we slid to a stop beside it, a woman in a crisp navy blue suit seemed to materialize out of the darkness. She was Japanese and young, in her early twenties at the most. She gave me a half bow as I stepped on the pier, and said, “Welcome to Nishinoshima. My name is Mari, and I will escort you to your accommodations,”

I seriously doubted her name was Mari, but I was glad she wasn’t dressed up like some anime waif, which had probably been Rogen’s initial idea. Some guys, you could smell the creep on them a million miles way. “I really don’t need the chaperoning.”

While Mari straightened up, she looked past me, not at me. I assumed it was a requirement of her job that she not make eye contact with the clients.”It is protocol that I show you to your accommodations. Mayanaka is a complex city, and newcomers need to familiarize themselves with it if they wish to move around within it.”

Okay, this tracked. I heard Rogen had become paranoid before he retreated completely into Nishinoshima. I just hoped he hadn’t gone full Howard Hughes, or he’d be an exceptionally hard target.

I followed Mari into what appeared to be an autonomous electric car, which took off the second we clicked our seatbelts. The city of Mayanaka rose in the wide windscreen like some video game maker’s dream. It was tall, narrow silver spires like needles, of varying heights to keep the skyline from being monotonous. That and the LED panels that allowed for night time ads and patterns to be displayed on the mirror face of all buildings.

It was kind of a bizarre throwback to what cities used to be before the world started choking on its own blood. Mayanaka lived like the planet wasn’t in its death throes, and as such, seemed fucking disrespectful. It was a rich man’s utopia, neo -Tokyo put through a Disney filter.

I wondered if I’d have enough time to burn it all down on my way out the door.


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