What terrible secret lies hidden in the video clip that is about to destroy the immaculate public image of David Xander, the most admired businessman of the City, handsome as a rockstar and one of the richest men alive? Alexandra Hill, his personal bodyguard, will have to find out, in a ruthless chase through the Suburbs and the Wastelands, following the trail of a mysterious blackmailer.
A science fiction thriller as fast paced as a blockbuster movie that plunges the reader into a near-future technological world, which brings together post-cyberpunk suggestions with the newest anime atmospheres.
Awarded with the Premio Italia 2004 as the best Italian science fiction novel of the year, ClipArt was first published in 2000 as an e-book on this website, collecting over 3500 downloads and great praise from the public. In January 2003 the novel was bought by publisher Delos Books and published – in an all new illustrated version – in the science fiction bookseries Fantascienza.com, and quickly sold out the first edition.
The novella has recently been translated and published in Hungary by Metropolis Media (Galaktika Fantasztikus Könyvek), together with “Origami” and “Hungry Light” (July 2008).
Here is a translation of the first chapter.
It was a sentence that left no chance to reply, one of those that leave you in an uncomfortable situation of disadvantage in relation with the person who, on the other end of the line, has just killed the conversation.
David Xander hated those situations.
What irritated him the most was the fact that he didn’t have a clue about the identity of who had just hung up on him. This person had actually dared contacting him three times over his private comm-line, evading with extreme ability all software protection systems installed by his technicians only to gain the privilege and satisfaction to blackmail him.
Money was not the problem: Xander Enterprises, the consulting company he created and of which he was the president, was the richest in the City after the great Multinationals. The 100K new yen he’d pulled out of his pockets so that this nameless thief would keep his mouth shut was of little importance, only a drop that became lost from the river of electronic money that every day flowed in and out of his company’s safes. Everybody in the City knew his name: David Xander, incorruptible tycoon, benefactor of the citizens in need, champion of culture and art, but most of all, handsome as a rockstar and one of the richest men alive.
His popularity had never been so high. It had taken him five long years and millions of new yen to buy such public image for himself, and Xander had no intention to give it up just yet because of a stupid orgy.
1. Xander Enterprises
Alexandra Hill, personal bodyguard of David Xander and top driver of Xander Enterprises, was very keen about enjoying every single minute of her first day off after almost two weeks of exhausting work. Supervising the creation of the school for security agents her Boss – that’s how she called Xander – had funded, had been a very taxing job, but the results were astonishing. Sensei John Talbain had already begun training the new recruits in the elaborate techniques of ninjutsu, and everything seemed to proceed for the best: next week, at last, her turn would finally come to begin with fast driving lessons. A few months from now, the recruits would enter the last phase of their training, learning how to fly on specially designed city aircrafts.
Life at Xander was always full and active, only thanks to the Boss. It was incredible what that man could do. During their last mission, in which Xander Enterprises had lost its headquarters and gained new ones, twice as big, in the same day, some unbelievable things had happened but Xander had been totally the winner. Xander Enterprises stock value had gained ten points in a day, and it had been thanks to Alexandra as well. For this reason, probably, the consideration her boss had for her seemed to have grown quite a lot, because, a few days later, David Xander himself had contacted her in her private quarters to inform her that she had been promoted to the role of his personal bodyguard,
This, in short, meant that she would spend most of her time with her Boss, and it was useless to deny it to herself: Alexandra was happy as an idiot.
She had tried a thousand times to forget that evening, the evening after their last victory: her boss was triumphant, satisfied and feeling self indulgent, so he had invited her out to dinner to celebrate, only the two of them.
What had followed was the most incredible night of her life, wrapped in silken sheet together with the man she most loved in the whole world, who had also proved to be the most endowed and inspired lover she could ever dream of.
Right: it had all been only a dream, a moment of space-time discontinuity. The day after, in fact, everything was back to normal, apart from her promotion she had received a week later. Just enough time for her to give up daydreaming and get back with her feet on the ground.
Her boss was David Xander, one of the richest men in the City, and she was only his bodyguard, the perfect partner for a relationship with loose ties. She knew she shouldn’t put her heart into it.
Alexandra crushed the origami she held in one hand, in a gesture of anger towards the whole world.
– Hell! – she breathed, throwing the small colored paper ball in the trashcan. – I’d better get out of here. Staying home turns me into a whining and hysterical small woman.,,
She picked up her black leather jacket and headed to the garage, walking with haste. She wanted to make sure the mechanics did a good job on Number Two, and the best way to ensure this was to keep an eye on them.
Why stay home feeling miserable when she could assist to a open-heart electromechanical surgery on the engine of an X Class Mercedes?
– You’re a bunch of weirdos! I can’t stand to live in this madhouse anymore! Just fuck you, you bikes and your fucking face!
Candy stormed out of the Faxers’ warehouse, slamming the half-broken door behind her back with great pleasure. She’d had enough of those people, and most of all, she had no intention to comply with the laws of their tribe, according to which every member was supposed to undergo facial surgery to receive the face of the Judge, the person they all venerated, the founder of the Faxer movement.
Not all tribes adopted his face: some preferred the face of some old celebrity like Abraham Lincoln or Michael Jackson. Once, during a Faxer gathering, Candy had met a tribe in which all members looked exactly like Marilyn Monroe, both men and women, all the way down to the short white dress and fire-red lipstick.
Candy was very proud to be a typical American beauty and had no intention whatsoever to sacrifice her looks to get the face of an angry bulldog by the hands of a plastic surgeon without a license. Running off with the Faxers was one thing, but becoming one of them was another, and in her long time plans there was no place for such thing.
With her easy job at Xander, Faxers had gained a large sum which had more than repaid them for taking her with them for a while. It had been Judge Freak’s idea to blackmail Xander. He was the tribe leader, and for once he had fired up his brain instead of his bike’s engine, and money had rained on them.
But Freak was the kind of man who didn’t know when to stop, and he had kept asking, putting himself and the tribe at grave risk.
In that precise moment, Xander’s virtual surfers were probably on their trail, and those idiotic bikers, what were they doing about it? They were having a party, to celebrate Judge Bozo, the weirdest of the bunch.
While Candy walked with long steps towards her bike, her left hand reached up to feel the pocket inside her jacket. The small lump she felt eased her fear: the clip was still where it should be. To avoid unpleasant tricks from the Judge, she had kept the original clip: the serial number of her eyecam was embedded on that small optical hard disk, and she didn’t like the idea of having Xander’s lackeys at her heels.
The powerful bike roared between her legs like a faithful lover, then jerked her forward as it gained speed, leaving a wide black tiremark on the tarmac, a little souvenir for those Judge fools.
For Candy it was time to disappear for a while.
The baritonal voice of David Xander echoed in the A-Tower garage through the internal speakers, instantly distracting Alex’s attention from the frenetic activity of the mechanics.
She had yet to get used to be called by her first name by the Boss, and the fact that he just did so knowing that all of Xander Enterprises mechanics would hear him looked a lot like a promising form of making it official.
– Yes, Boss.
Hidden microphones planted everywhere collected her voice and brought it in a moment all the way to David Xander’s private office.
– Could you please join me in my office? We must discuss a matter of great importance.
To inexperienced ears, this could appear like a polite invitation, but Alexandra could easily recognize each and every different tone of his voice: it was an order. And the Boss was upset.
– I’ll be upstairs in a moment.
(Translated by the author – Still unpublished in English)
© Elisabetta Vernier – 1998/2006