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Counterfeit

we’re today’s scrambled creatures


locked in tomorrow’s double features
David Bowie.

1
The UmR rushes the tunnel: Not busy, yet full enough to compromise space -
to de-oxygenate air. The temperature is warm, body-heated. Faces are
immersed in their particular concerns. Glaze-eyed. Sleepy.
I sit fingering my p-C. I sway with the movement of the underground train. Its
magnetised drive pushing it on over rails. Five halts to Kings Cross Central.

The message came in just after two-thirty local time. Re-forming out of the q-
Way soup.
>french-sector< >transcription needed< >breaking - missing pop-personality
located in cheap overnighter Kings Cross< >press-meet - three thirty – txt to Sat<
>confirm<.
I was sitting in the office, tossing a poly-cup about, eyeing the communal
holo-V and thinking of Mila.

I confirmed and grabbed my raincoat from the ancient hat-stand; the


communal cloakroom. Then stepped over the junk of the office floor. Papers and
throw-aways. Into the dark corridor that led to the street x-it. Shadowed and
green lighted.

The pop-personality located is Ur-M-inence. A favoured media presence, he


is a man who mixes music with melodrama, politics with spirituality. He enjoys
considerable celebrity courtesy of Global-Net’s Atlantic-16, a music and
entertainment service. His current media status is of a different order. Five days
ago his lover’s body was discovered dead in the swimming pool of their Thames-
estuary complex. A battered body, matted hair, large amounts of sex n-hancers
in the blood stream.

I am to liase with Daniel. Already at the scene. He is covering the story for a
quality e-news service. Daniel, a man with a sardonic turn of phrase. Who
fashions his words in a two step: sarcasm and biting sarcasm. It is not an
attribute that endears him to editors. Pressed as they are to keep news in small
packages. To iron any irony out. For this is the twenty-first and News is a serious
business.

I have already done some digging on the case. Perhaps because it interests
me. I have got background, pulled articles and postings. I have put together a
picture.

Ur-M-inence fashions himself on the twentieth rock star David Bowie. That is
he re-interprets, steals and generally takes advantage of the original’s work. He
treats, digitises, cross-mixes and only thinly disguises the source. Memories are
short in the entertainment world. As in the media world. Where any ‘concept’ will
do so long as it generates excitement and quick fiscal return. If twentieth rock
was the consumer society’s first art-form, small input - maximum impact, at least
its initial purveyors had the panache to inform their work with irony and a degree
of talent. Ur-M-inence steers close to mid twenty-first principle. Visuals that are
soft and short to the point of invisibility. Melodic and harmonic ideas of almost
child-like simplicity. It is easy emotionalism; a mix of high sentiment and nostalgia
bundled in relentless pr assault, a constant media-feed of personal drama,
breakdowns and narco-addiction. The stuff of tragic and escapist intimacies.
In appearance Ur-M-inence borrows his source’s mid nineteen-seventies
look. He has had his face silicone-sculpted to almost exact replica of the Andrew
Kent photographs. (The same Andrew Kent who now flickers thought
retrospectives at the Royal Academy). The copper-fringed coiffure, mascara-ed
eyes, gaunt cocaine-drawn face and almost angel-thin body. Ur-M-inence is a bit-
painting of a painting. A chimera who strides stages. A tiny figure woven by
pixels and held aloft on cross beams of tungsten and laser. He is a carrier of
mass dreams and evokes a longing deep in the soft resi-Zone’s psyche. A place,
where in the dead of night, in empty hours the desire for some power slips free.
Where the longing for absolution, for obliteration finds voice. And becomes the
nazi-salute all done up in a wig and well-meaning.

Thin-White’s media moment was his live claim on Atlantic-16 that his
connection to his idol was not a simple one. Such a mundane interpretation of
their relationship would not suffice. In a notable holo-V link-up he produced a
‘psychic’ from the renegade state of California: a broad-bodied man with small,
pebble-like eyes, dyed hair and goateed chin. Slow-tongued and hypnotic, this
spiritual salesman peered out at viewers as though challenging them. He would,
he claimed, placed Ur-M-inence in a trance.
Our pop-personality recalled his past life as the rock-star. He spoke of his
childhood in Bromley, London, his early success, his time in New York and LA
and his flight to Berlin. Ur-M-inence babbled trivia talk, repeating nothing that
could not have been sourced in any well filed info-cloud. As if sensing waning
interest he then made an incredulous claim. The real David Bowie was murdered
by Intelligence services of the former US shortly before recording the Station to
Station album. The link-up involving inter-act. the questioning began immediately;
a frenzy of speculation. Why? Because David was indeed a star-child. Fallen to
earth. He was a superior galactic being. No! David’s DNA was not human in the
sense we would understand. It contained alien markers. Yes there were
mysterious circumstances surrounding his birth. A strange series of lights were
seen over London at 9.30 AM on Jan 08 1947. The air-force was scrambled
because of a reported UFO sighting off the Kent coast. Unintelligible signals
interfered with normal radio transmission all day. Clarification? The US
government’s Project Bluebook had been monitoring David for years. They
believed his musical activity was a cover to activate alien cells in preparation for
subversion. They killed the connection. (Ur-M-inence claimed this was done by
replacing David’s much needed psychotropic drugs with a genetically-coded
compound that caused his heart to collapse.) The real David Bowie was replaced
with a government agent who proceeded, subtly, to dismantle the rock star’s
reputation. Renouncing his past, watering down his music, turning him into an
icon of quiet and complacent middle-age. Making him an acceptable figure of the
establishment.

Irony is a thing of the past.

I collate the facts as I move north. It is a short ride. First halt Oxford Circus,
then three to Kings Cross Central. I format my initial txt space while recalling the
events of the last few days.

Hours after the body was found Ur-M-inence was nowhere to be found. The
media was pregnant with expectation. Rolling links broke commercial messages
and political talk-ins to report possible sightings. An airport, an m-Rail, a man in a
crowded subway, a face caught on CC-holo-V in an upmarket nutri-bar. At one
stage a darkened PR-status vehicle was followed for seventeen minutes along
the M20 artery south. It turned out to be a senior Metropolitan Police figure on
her way to the euro-Link.
Meanwhile fans gathered outside the personality’s complex to hold a vigil.
Tear stained faces crowded screens. Mounds of flowers built quickly. Candles
were lit. Then the conspiracy theories began. The same fate had befallen Thin-
White as his mentor. He had been killed because he knew something. He had
been rendered and was being interrogated by Intel. There was a possible alien
connection. A militant religious group had abducted him. He was being set-up to
discredit his charity-work. But there was little mention of the simple facts. A blood
stream full of sex n-hancers. A man on the run. Lovers quarrel and in a narco
state a fight ensues. Then there is the body. Inert. Heart stopped. Lungs
expelling their last air. Eyes glazing over.
3

The press-meet is to be informal. It will be held in front of the overnighter


where Thin-White has been located. The Argyle: on a shabby street of the same
name running south of the main Euston t-Bahn.

I come under a subway, a direct link from the Terminal and find myself facing
a Marshal cordon: a ring of jump suited bodies. Laser protection stretches across
the street entrance. Above press helicraft hover.

I search for a Co-Ordination officer and find one. She is a heavy woman with
a furrowed face. Her eyes are Wedgwood blue and she speaks with a German
accent. She logs my PiD and puts me on-system. Then she waves me through. I
push into the throng, activating my p-C to find Daniel. Homing in on his signal
until his back appears. Narrow shouldered in an olive-green cloak and sports
cap.

Celebrity n-Tellers and Anchors have already set up stall. Faces are bright
under tungsten and halogen. Photo-sensitive layers of cosmetic colour,
implanted hair pieces, sculpted profiles latch onto the light. Sound checking,
image checking, cueing their scripts, they stand before cam, ruffed collars, silk
bows, deep blues and olive greens all sharp against their white camises. They
are the priests of a data driven religion. They offer succour and support,
guidance and revelation. In the background the technicians work quietly. Their
security is in the power they wield over ego-driven careers. The caress of a
touchpad that skews colour co-ordination, dulls eyes, highlights the imperfections
of an aging complexion, making them more powerful than any cardinal of old.

Daniel turns to me as I tap his shoulder. There is a flush to his dark skin.
Excitement perhaps, satisfaction at seeing a story come good. He holds up his p-
C.
“Read,” he says.
I read.
Being a registered journalist Daniel has 24 non-fee-paying access to Reuter-
Net releases.
> Ur-M-inence, otherwise known as Barry Parker, 42 yrs old of Southend-on-
Sea Essex, is to be charged in connection with the death of Simon Kieslowski
53, also of Southend-on-Sea Essex. Mr Kieslowski’s body was found dead at Mr
Parker’s Thames-Estuary complex on Thursday October 06. Mr Parker was
arrested at a central London overnighter by London Metropolitan CID. It is
believed Police acted after being contacted by an executive of Atlantic 16
Entertainment Networks<.
I raise my eyebrows.
“Contacted by an AT-16 executive?”
Daniel smiles. His ebony skin creases. His Irish accent sharpening the words.
“Tip off indeed. Was I not right?”
I laugh. Bunching my fist and striking him lightly on the shoulder. Thinking of
his suspicions all along.
“You were. Straight homicide. Or at least an ‘accessory to’. A domestic?”
He tips his nose.
“No conspiracy, no Intel rendition. Lover’s quarrel pure and simple.”
“Come-uppance for pop-personality of the period then.”
His mouth tightens. Then he shakes his head sadly.
“Don’t go that far. The exec from Atlantic 16 is in there right now. Has been
since early this morning I hear. Contacted the Met just an hour ago?”
“Conscience case? In the public interest?”
“No. I would say the Met informed Atlantic 16. They told them they had strong
evidence. DNA, bio-print, whatever. Maybe even a witness. Then they let it run
for twenty-four. Let the media handlers bring him in. Exec is formulating the plan
of action. Getting the pr in line. In return the Met get to produce a suspect and
wrap a case. Good for them. It’s October. Budget reviews are in the offing.”
“Cynical,” I say.
Daniel shifts his weight from one foot to the other. Then runs his tongue over
his teeth.
“Look, I’ve seen it before. Circus trial on net-cast. Public inter-act: a judge
who sees his media stock rise. Witnesses who can sell their stories. The lure of
celebrity. Tears on the stand, mysterious illness, stress, fawning testimony by
former lovers. Absolution by celebrity. Even if he gets sent down he’ll do no more
than a couple of years. Maybe not even that. There’ll be the prison diary, the
suicide attempt, the donations to charity. He might even find God: or reflexology.
These types are awfully good at bringing pressure to bear on public reps.”
“He claims to be a re-incarnation of the twentieth rock-star David Bowie,” I
add..
Daniel puts his arms around his body, as though suddenly becoming cold. He
murmurs.
“Yea. No doubt Elvis Presley has just risen from the dead. As we speak the
multitudes are gathering. His request for tax-exemption on grounds of being a
spiritual leader is already filed.”
I am about to respond when Daniel touches my arm.
“Hey! Here he comes,” he says, lowering his voice, almost in reverence.
Maybe he relishes the performance to come.

A frail man appears. He is flanked by three men and a women. Two Met
Marshals and two plain clothes. Another woman, tall and with a taut complexion
stands just behind them. To her rear is a sixth man, small, heavily built with dark,
suspicious eyes in a baby face. His hair is long, tied up behind him in a tail. A
black satin pea-coat is slung loosely over his shoulder. Daniel leans close and
whispers.
“The small man is Alain Usmanov, a policy exec at AT-16. The tall thin
woman is Marien von-Breitling a celebrity lawyer.”
I nod. A podium has been set up before the overnighter. The building as a
shabby white Victorian affair. Above its entrance, a gel-screen runs the live
news-feed. At the press-meet watching the press-meet. Watching you watching
you.
A small dais with an autocue has been placed on the pavement. Before it
stands an artillery of pick-up devices, lights and digi-Cams. Journalists wait
eagerly, their eyes hungry and expectant. The frail man steps forward. The
lawyer comes with him. They are accompanied by a Met-Marshal.
Thin-White is about one metre six. There are shadows around his eyes. His
mouth is pulled tight and his cheeks puffy despite the sculpting. His hair is not the
famous copper-throwback but thinning and charcoal-grey. There is none of the
angel-thin elegance of his stage persona. He appears tired and somewhat plain.
He looks as though he is about to be fold in on himself. As though he might
disappear into the shadows or lose himself in the crowd.
The voices rise. They break over the afternoon, rushing the space between
interrogator and interrogated. There is a crescendo of questions, of waving arms
and frantic eyes.
‘Mr Parker have you been officially charged? Mr Parker how are you feeling?
Mr Parker is there any truth in rumours there was illegal cy-using on your
personal premises? Mr Parker will you continue with plans for your upcoming
Pacific-rim tour? Mr Parker can you comment on reports your contract with
Atlantic 16’s is to be terminated? Mr Parker have you anything to say to your
fans?’
The frail man staggers as if hit. His body tenses. Then he braces himself. He
finds a space a metre in front of him and a desperate gleam lights his eyes. An
eerie silence halts the assembled media. He speaks slowly.
“Please call me Thin-White.”
Then pauses.
“I will not be answering any questions today. I have a brief statement. I deny
any responsibility in the death of Mr Simon Kieslowski.”
Glance to the lawyer.
“Mr Kieslowski, Simon, was a dear friend. We were partners for many years. I
would have done nothing to harm him.
Glance to Mr Usmanov.
“It was a wicked act to take the life of such a gentle man. He will be missed. I
pledge to do everything within my power to bring the perpetrator of this heinous
crime to justice.”
A watery film springs into his eyes. He lurches, breathing quickly. Perhaps the
gravity of the situation is hitting him. He grasps the edge of the podium as though
to steady himself. Then continues.
“I ask my fans to think of me. I ask them to be with me, not to lose faith in me.
May the Light look after them. Thank you.”
He twists his mouth into a somewhat pained smile. The feeds get their close-
ups, the news-links their photo-grabs. Then his lawyer, raising her hand,
indicates the press-meet is over. Haughtily she grasps Thin-White’s arm, firmly
turns him and walks him to a waiting Met vehicle.
I turn to Daniel. He is shaking his head.
“Think you’ll be able to get all that complex info into manageable French?”
I shrug.
“I’ll try.”
Already the media are packing up and the n-Tellers porting their links. A light
autumn rain has started to fall.

We cross to the northern side of the Euston t-Bahn. Daniel is already porting
his txt for editing. Hitting send, then readjusting his sports cap: a cavalier pose.
He turns to me.
“Do you think he’s guilty?”
I raise my shoulders.
“He’s certainly plain.”
“Plain?”
“I said plain. Not that I expected interesting. Just something more.”
“They always are?”
“What? Plain?”
“Yes. At heart plain. Therefore the pr.”
I have pulled my gore-tex doublet tight. The rain is shining the fronts of
buildings. Darkening the brickwork of St Pancras.
“What were you going to say back there about him being a re-incarnation?
“Nothing much. Just that in a way he is a re-incarnation. He has taken a past
figure and brought him into the present. He has merged himself with a past
creation to become a contemporary creation.”
“Wait. I know my history. David Bowie wasn’t a real person. He was some
other person being David Bowie.”
“That’s true,” I say, beginning to turn for the UmR. “Yet Thin-White is neither
of them and he is not himself. He has created a third person. Maybe even a
fourth. His currency is artifice. The artifice of nostalgia. He appeals to a past too
distant to be interrogated directly. He appeals to a past that has ceased to exist
except in digi-Archives, old MVE clips, photo-grabs. In that space, people insert
their fantasies. They turn away from the present. Less complex. Less uncertain.
They touch what they imagine to be lost innocence.”
“But is he guilty of homicide?” Daniel calls out.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” I return, stepping away. “But if the charge was
counterfeit he wouldn’t have a chance.”

I stand on the UmR south to Piccadilly. Busier. The first waves of daylight
commuters cramp space. Faces are closed, retreated. Private escapes are being
plotted.
Staring up at the in-car messages I think. I sift through the strands of history.
The era in which Thin-White’s mentor, David Jones, was born was a time of
uneasy and protracted cold-War between two former power blocks; the US and
the Soviet Union. There was rapid transformation of social and tax-band
relations. It was the beginning of the ‘information’ revolution: a time before belief
in democracy became acceptance of oligarchy. For if our lives are not now
determined by the dictates of government, the drives of ideology, they are
determined by the self-censoring impulse that means we abjure individual
conscience in order to merge, to belong. The twenty-first has not brought
cohesion. It is a fragmented society. A web of disguised self-interests. Self-
interest without accountability. We have become so nebulous, so easy, so
lacking in purpose and individual opinion we have lost definition. We have
become surfaces. Personas not people. All shiny in fantasy but angry and
discontented in the mirror of self.

I leave the UmR. The rain has given way. Tracts of blue flow behind cloud.
The sun breathes autumn. It lends a melancholy warmth to things. I walk the
short distance to the office, crossing Shaftsbury and onto Regent. I stop before
climbing the three levels of stairs. And look back at Eros. Once it was the centre
of a city. Now it is an agglomeration of sex and implant parlours. New Mumbai
street, formerly Haymarket, spills a shifting mass of drifters and hustlers onto
Piccadilly. The private security-patrolled residences rising off re-structured St
James sniff their disdain. I think of Thin-White. A middle-aged man behind an
image of eternal youth. A sad and frail person standing before the gathered
media. Pleading his innocence, asking for his fans not to forget him. As though
he would cease to exist if absented from their thoughts.

I feel angry. A sudden unfocused anger. Welling up within me. Dark and
undefined. Gnawing at my centre. As though I were a fist. Or a small bomb.
Leaking poison. Bleeding into the afternoon.

Copyright © Peter Millington October 2007