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HDK 75 † Kowloon Neon City / Episode 2


“Mei, I miss you. I miss your metal body, your synthetic hair, your artificial breath.” “I’m here, Cheng. I am everywhere, always with you. I am pure spirit in the mega-machine.” “My father’s name was Han. He was one of Olympus’ designers. He was in robotics. He was an artist. He wanted to create useful robots. Not just physically. He wanted them to help the whole living world. To be happy. His aim was peaceful coexistence: harmony.” “What did it happen?”, “The Council of the Chosen Ones did not agree with him. His robots - they said - had no specific purpose. They were useless. The tension grew. It was decided to prevent Han from designing more robots, he was removed from his duties. Even if disappointed, at first Han accepted the decision. But he soon disobeyed: one night he was discovered working on a new robot, capable of understanding much more sophisticated feelings than humans. The fact was considered very serious: he was punished with the most severe punishment: formatting”. “Terrible.” “I was twelve years old at the time, I would lose my status as Elected and be sent down here, to Kowloon, after being formatted. My father devised a way to save me: he gave me a cyborg body with all his highest robotic knowledge into it and sent me to the gutter. He passed me off as a “sentinel.” “A sentinel?” “Yes, one of many robots who, on behalf of the Chosen Ones, incognito guard what happens in Kowloon. Isn’t it ironic? The Council had the same idea: they used Han as a sentinel to fix the bugs within Kowloon’s system. And the bug he has to fix now is me.”
Mei wanders in the net. The sea of binary code seems a splendid artwork to her, the most impressive ever created. It plows through fragments of data that no one will ever analyze, abandoned at the bottom of the digital abyss. Archaeological remains of data from ancient times. She watches the flow of the code move as if it were the waves of an ocean. At some point, she stops. She smiles. She starts his secret executable file. In the hidden holes of that artificial sea, she hides a small backup file. She calls it “Mei/restore.” “If anything should happen to me,” she thinks.
It’s raining cats and dogs. A wet, moonless night envelops the outcast city of Kowloon. Cheng lies in a seedy basement. He lies on his bed and thinks, his eyes are turned to the ceiling. He receives a beep. An image file. “This is Olympus, the city of the Chosen”. Mei shows Cheng an image. “I come from there.” “And where is this place?” “Up there, beyond the layer of toxic clouds that envelops Kowloon. The oligarchy of the Chosen Ones rules the city and lays down the law. They format the soul of the dissidents. Everything is apparently well ruled but under the perfection...”. Mei hesitates for a moment, then continues: “Kowloon is functional in Olympus. They secretly use Kowloon humans to create experiences and memories that they collect in their powerful servers. This data is analyzed by their computers which have a huge database of human feelings and experiences. They use it exclusively to improve their lives in their perfect city. We are a great laboratory of data for their happiness. “If you describe it like that, it doesn’t sound like a good place, then” says Cheng looking at the image again. “It’s not. Promise me you won’t believe their lies.”
Cheng is wandering in a dark alley in Kowloon City. He’s sneaking around and he is afraid of being followed, but he’s alone. A metallic voice can be heard from his wrist device. “Here, to the left.” Cheng looks around and notices a passage leading to a dark interior. The armoured sliding door that protected the entrance is open. Cheng enters. He sees a wall of lit monitors, a table, a chair occupied by a human figure. “Don’t worry, he’s dead.” Cheng goes closer: the man has his head poured backwards, his mouth is wide open, his eyes are barred. “Can you kill from the net?” “Not really, but I can manipulate the files that a junkie injects into his brain.” A grimace appears on Cheng’s face. “Bring my body here. For seven days it will be safe.” “I will.” “At night, I fall asleep watching your deactivated body. It’s off, I know. But sometimes it feels like your eyes are looking at me.”
Mei is desperately wandering the great net. She’s looking for a secret passage. “If they read the data stream generated by the people of Kowloon from Olympus, I can - somehow - infiltrate the Olympus network from down here,” she thinks. “Once you find it, it’ll be a piece of cake to blink the security systems.” Suddenly, an unusually clever Trojan appears on her mirror account. It talks to her, and Mei immediately understands who is behind the Trojan. “You can’t run forever. You know, we’ll find you. It’s only a matter of time.” “What if I find you first?” “Are you threatening us?” “No. That’s a promise. I’ll kill you. All of you.” The mysterious Trojan disappears instantly. The killer returns to his physical body and whispers to himself, “no, you won’t have the courage to kill your father. You hope that - somewhere - there is a backup of my personality formatted by the Chosen Ones. But I’m the same as I’ve always been, my little fool...”
Cheng raises the shutter of a garage in a dirty, damp alley. Inside there is his motorbike. He enters some data into the onboard computer. He identifies himself with a new mirror account. The bike activates, Cheng smiles. He gets in the saddle and speeds away. He goes to a bar. He sits down. Another figure arrives: it’s Wan, a friend of Cheng’s gang. “Where the fuck have you been?” “I can’t be seen around.” “Hey, you got into the wrong crowd?” “Ugly people. Whoever’s around me croaks, so be careful”. “Go easy.” “The material you asked for is checked. You’ll have some Trojans on your tail if you open these files.” Cheng gets the data from Wan on a tiny external memory. The two of them say goodbye. “Be careful.” “You too.” The file package name is “Olympus”.
Someone walks down a crowded avenue in the city. He’s a tall, massive cyborg with an adult face, blond hair. He has two artificial eyes and extendible limbs. He’s dressed in a long black raincoat. Over him, without anyone noticing him, dozens of drones fly: tiny artificial insects with eyes and powerful scanners, connected to the net. The cyborg stands still in the crowd, looking for something or someone. Then he smiles. He starts to walk and sends an anonymous message to the ID account of a guy who’s walking through the crowd. The kid gets it. He looks around. He turns into an alley. The cyborg follows him. When he realizes he’s reached a dead end, the boy hears footsteps behind him. He is scared. He doesn’t have time to turn around for the cyborg’s extendible arm to grab his skull. “I did as you told me, I gave him the files you gave me,” cries Wan desperately. “That’s right Wan. And now we don’t need you anymore.”
Cheng goes back to the damp basement. It’s evening. He hears a noise and is on the alert. Mei suddenly appears in her robot body. “What are you doing here? How did you get your body back?” “We have a mission: I found a hole in Olympus’ security system. Let’s go.” “To do what?” “To sabotage the system forever.” “We’re running out of time. They’ll find my mirror account soon.” Mei sends a file to Cheng. “Do you recognize this cylindrical tower?” “Yes, it’s one of those you can’t see their top.” “Let’s climb it. We’ll get to Olympus.” A few minutes later, the two of them are on a motorcycle, whizzing through the streets of Kowloon. While driving, Cheng finally feels Mei’s body close to him after a long time. He missed that feeling. Feeling her arms around him, her breath... the warmth of that robotic body seems to warm his soul. “Mei?” “What is it?” “If the killer finds us, we’re doomed, aren’t we?” “Don’t think about it.”
Cheng and Mei enter the tower from the basement parking lot. Mei identifies herself at the entrance with a fake account and the building computer opens the glass doors with a high-pitched beep. “This way,” Mei says, pointing up a curved corridor. A large and very long spiral of glass runs around the tower, running vertically throughout the building. The two of them run like wildfire along the corridor that never seems to end. After a few minutes, the walls of the spiral turns from opaque to transparent, allowing a view from above of the outcast city of Kowloon. As he runs, Cheng thinks that no matter how bleak and corrupt, that cold, damp city actually seems, but that is the only place where he really wants to live. As he climbs beyond the dense clouds, Cheng is suddenly forced to cover his eyes with his hands. A violent light, unknown to him, filters through the windows of the building... sunlight! As soon as Mei sees that Cheng stops and he is disoriented, she slows down. She understands. She hugs him and they kiss feeling the warmth of the scarlet rays.
“We are at the end of our journey, Cheng. I’m going on alone from here.” The two are in front of a black polished steel door. “What...? You’re kidding, right?” Mei’s gaze is really serious. “I didn’t come all this way to let you go alone.” “You can’t help me anymore.” “Yes, I can!” “Cheng, you’re a human!” The two of them look into each other’s eyes. They’re both about to burst into tears. Grinding his teeth, Cheng says, “Open the damn door!”. The door suddenly opens. But it wasn’t Mei’s mirror account that opened it. Cheng barely has time to look back: a metallic glow, a shift of air, and he finds himself thrown over the threshold. The last thing he sees before he loses consciousness is Mei’s body wrapped in the killer’s extendible limb. A groan, a horrible bent metal noise, a spark. Mei’s gaze fades away.
Cheng walks in a lush garden. Around him there are glittering towers rising from the white clouds. The sunlight is dazzling and gives off a sweet warmth. How long has he been here? He can’t remember. He is well. He only remembers being rescued by cyborgs with human faces. “Whoever can get here is welcomed,” they said. “You’ll be all right with us, you’ll see.” Slowly the head wound healed. But a slight discomfort, a distracted feeling, catches him at certain times of the day. “Promise me you won’t believe their lies”. The familiar face of a girl. A strange object in his pocket. Cheng suddenly remembers. Everything. And he realizes he still has something to do. The external memory with the data Wan gave him must be entered into the system. Something tells him it’s the only way to destroy it. Whatever happens, it happens.
The Great Temple is located in the central square of Olympus. It is the place where everyone can offer their memories to the Great Data Archive. It is a ritual, a cathartic gesture of all the citizens of Olympus. Cheng goes there. But instead of his data, he enters Wan’s external memory. As he expected, a black screen appears in front of his eyes, with a cursor. But to his surprise, a message appears: “Patch installed. System fixed.” One moment, the desperate image of Mei’s face in tears, the sudden feeling of having done something horribly wrong. Then darkness. “Han, you’re a true artist. Your algorithm is able to eliminate bugs with impressive stability. Today Olympus is more in harmony than ever. You are the pride of our community.” “I thank the Council of the Chosen Ones for this important recognition. We’ll get even better.” Han’s face shows a smug smile. He takes a furtive glance at the display of his external memory, where a few backup files tagged as “bugs” are saved. One of them is called “Mei”. [to be continued...]
My code and your code are linked together My binary ID is still searching I feel so good when your message comes out I feel so lonely when you disappears into the void I miss your digital body I find some bugs in my code and you are the one who fixs them the algorithm in me is looking for you into the void... I miss your digital body


HDK is proud to introduce you the second episode of "Kowloon Neon City", the immaginary distopic and retro-futuristic anime released in 199X. In this second part, the story moves from the rejected city of Kowloon to its double Olympus. We will discover a world permeated by technology that brings many aspects of our reality forward, to the extreme consequences. Mei and Cheng, once again the protagonists of this story, have to fight for their lives against the global sistem of surveillance. And we will discover some news details about the life of "the pale god of Kowloon", the killer (and Mei's father) that fight once again to eliminate our protagonists forever. But not all will go as planned...

The japanese musician called Ryosuke Mochida has overtake himself donating to us a various and original album, full of melodies and arrangements, inspired by retrowave, darkwave and dance music of the early '90. You can enjoy it reading to the story in the booklet attached. See you soon in the third and final episode!

- - - - - - - - - -

In the previous episode:
Cheng is a young smuggler of memories. Mei is a cyborg girl. They live in the same gang in Kowloon suburbs. One night Cheng discovers that all his customers are killed by a mysterious cyborg called “The pale god of Kowloon”. And he understands that the killer is looking for them. Cheng doesn’t know why but Mei hides some dark secrets in her past. They start to live in secrecy to survive...

The megalopolis is a nightmare of rain and concrete, tangled cables and flashing screens. And traffic. Neon signs are everywhere. The crowd leaves no respite. Only if you turn in the maze of humid secondary roads you can be alone, surrounded by dirt. Skyscrapers are so high that you can’t see their end. The sky is always covered by a thick and dense fog, which causes thin and never ending rain. You will never see the sun in Kowloon: clouds are crossed by the highest towers, which go through them approaching Olympus, the city of the Elected. Over there, it is said, you can feel the sunrays but the inhabitants of Kowloon are not allowed to reach the highest floors. In Kowloon people live in a dark, humid and endless night. Humans usually have robotic body parts and a chip that contains the soul: you can surf the big web and exchange memories, experiences and identities.

“They’re looking for me.” “Who?” “The Chosen of Olympus. They sent the killer to eliminate me. I have to disappear; I’ll leave you my robot body. We won’t see each other for a while but we can communicate on the net.”


released April 30, 2021

Mastered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air
Art by Stefano Artibani




Heimat Der Katastrophe Milan, Italy

DIY label focused on ambient punk, minimal-synth, dungeon-drone, wartime music and post-nuclear wave. Managed by a creative punx collective from Milano city.

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