amd then tell me, at the end of it, what you thought
The T25 junk banks gently into the shadow of Saturn, what someone called The June Weekend- a vast and desolate tract of push-free hinterland where soul traders rely on chemical reaction alone.
The captain flicks an old-school switch (not for him the expense of pre-cog control, where the board sees what he wants ahead of time and actions that task with prescient alacrity) and the autopilot personality boots up:
"Hello captain," says the autopilot, "good to see you awake and...", the autopilot senses the environment, "... in the middle of the doldrums."
"Hey, personality, can the enthusiasm," says the captain, "and talk to me."
"Well, one, I have a name," this flashed in italics across the HUD, "which is Clement' - now in bold- ' and 2, are you on a downer again? Because...' the captain starts to answer but the autopilot increases emphasis both volume-wise and typographically,
'Because' - this in 40 point helvetica neue bold- 'I have heard it 153 and a half times before, and, although I am programmed not to be bored by my owner's endless carping, frankly, I have a bug that renders me unable to bear this particular monologue once more.'
'Yes, but you are also programmed to shut the fuck up when I'm speaking', says the captain.
'It is the same story though, isn't it?' says the autopilot (after a programmed hiatus when the autopilot's conversation protocol sub-routine thinks a suitable period has elapsed), 'it's about her again,' - flashed italics, but 9 point this time- 'isn't it captain?'
The captain sighs, twists the ring on his left little finger and (finally) admits, 'yes, it's about her'
'if you're going to say "I should have had said 'X' or I should have said 'Y', then I will say that those are letters of the alphabet and really don't mean anything', says the autopilot. 'Yes, ha ha, literal minded tertiary AI that you are, I almost thought you were making a joke', says the captain.
Outside occur occasional flashes as too-close dust bunnies are burned by the ship's proximity defence.
'You keeping a close watch on that?' says the captain as one particularly large explosion brightens the cabin. 'Not too pre-occupied with my woes are you?'
'Sir', says the autopilot, with an amount of sniffiness that the captain is sure is beyond the factory settings, 'your banal ramblings occupy less than point one percent of my operational contingency. A contingency, I might add, that is normally reserved for dealing with sump drainage errors'.
The captain slumps a little, and does not notice the ambient light warm fractionally as the autopilot says 'I'm sorry, I was a little pre-occupied,'
An ill-lit hall with a big (real) wood desk on a plinth. TC Smith stood before Time Comptroller Martin (renowned prig).
"What's my first mission, comptroller?" asked Smith.
The comptroller took his time looking up from his reports (green ink, illegible for the most part and written by Time Agents driven to psychosis by paradox shift).
"I'm sending you to region 5 of the time base: the Wars of the Ascension."
"I know what region 5 is, sir." said Smith.
"Yes, you were quite the studious, er... student, weren't you Smith?"
Asshole, thought Smith before saying, "region 5 is classified dense-apocalyptic isn't it sir? Do you think you should be sending a cadet on a DA mission?"
"Smith," and he paused, more for effect than anything else, she thought, "you'll be taking a low-level bridging brief - nothing to worry yourself over. And you'll be monitored by more, ah, experienced agents throughout insertion."
"I appreciate that sir, but I still think I should be given a more straightforward brief..."
" Smith," he interrupted, "I decide the priorities and you are, after all, A star A. I think you can cope with a simple bridge."
"I understand sir, I'm just nervous."
She turned to leave.
"Before you're dismissed," he said, "you need to know two things,"
"One, I am the comptroller, not some snot-nosed Zeno bartender," again he paused, closed his eyes and sniffed.
Asshole, she thought.
"And two," he continued, "I am registered point five on the telepathy index."
Well you think I think you're a asshole, but you don't actually know then, do you, asshole?
"That's what I'm registered, however that's not what I'm capable of."
"But as you are registered point five, and I'm registered point one, you can't use what I'm thinking against me, can you," asshole, "sir?"
The comptroller allowed himself a cold smile, "No," he said, "but region 5 it is."
“We have at least two weeks of rock-dodging before us,” says the autopilot, “why don’t you tell me the story from the beginning,” (again, thinks the governing AI, but the captain has no idea -or real interest in knowing- that the autopilot can think.)
The captain takes a cigarrette from the dent in the dash where he keeps them, “ok,” he says, “just after I was unwired into a clone (part of my redundancy package from ImpMark) I was hanging around the Titan-exits...”
The autopilot cannot help itself but unspool data from it’s archives, even though it is the 152nd time it has done so:
[unwired: Imperial Marketing (ImpMark) drone-soldier slang for decantation into a new medium. Drone-soldiers are typically waste humans stripped of inessential organs and neurally integrated (‘wired’) into the control systems of gun-platforms. End of tour drone-soldiers are decanted into standard human clone bodies.]
[ImpMark: contraction of Imperial Marketing (c.f. comintern), strap-line taking the message to the millions, the military arm of the Ascension.]
[(moon)-exit: hyperspace intrusion into realspace (c.f. wormhole) engineered to orbit gas-giant moons, where confluence of violent magnetosphere and deep gravity well is conducive]
Out of the warp, Smith
[edit: archaic- naming convention assumed preserved for sentimental reasons] tail-spins her Z3 into a flat burn across the Saturn solar shadow.
[edit: Smith chose a Z3 for her insertion persona - 12 years old contemporaneous, the vehicle is a powerful and expensive classic, and considered fashionable].
"Time-normal achieved," she says for the log, "1.25 hours until contact." Must stop using decimal,she thinks, this Region still uses babylon time.
[edit: babylon time - seconds and minutes cut into sixty]
Time clicked, the field coalesced to single bright point and they were left behind, like a cheap magic trick. They were standing in front of a long low building in a run-down borough of Larger-London. It was early morning and the streets were deserted, but the doors were open, and martial music could be heard faintly. Open 24-7 for cannon-fodder, thought Time-Sergeant Smith.
Dr. Carrington, obviously still ill with the memory-wipe, staggered against her.
"Where am i?"
"You're sick, I'm taking you to a place where you can be helped," she said.
"Miss Smith, who am I?"
"Start imprint," she was careful to pronounce the syllables clearly and slowly; the viral nano-tech she had implanted had had enough time and could understand.
"You are a forty year old unemployed technician. You have no social connection. You have decided to enlist with the drones. The promise of a fresh start and an 18 year old clone body after 4 years indenture is attractive to you. You have nothing to lose...", she looked closely, his pupils were dilated and his breathing slow and steady, the nano-tech had embedded into motor-control and was mainlining her words directly to his amygdala, "... you have decided that you can serve your world in the Ascension War. The year is 2064."
Which is ironic, she thought, given, that if I hadn't excised you from your time splice, the Ascension would have started in 1914, because of you..
"Your name is Clement, which is old-fashioned, but..." I'll leave you with that at least, ".. but," and she looked into his eyes, "you love me." What the fuck am I saying?
"Now turn around and walk into that building," he turned slowly, "go to the recruiter and tell her you want to enlist. That you know what it means, and that you want to serve your world."
Dr. Carrington, just plain Clement now, stumbled forward, but as he got to the wide and bright doors he turned, "I will remember" he said, and, for a moment, Smith was uncomfortable, but then chose to dismiss the words as hysteresis - a mental loop-back winding down.
no you won't, and disappeared in a single bright point.
“Do you remember anything from before you were indentured?” asks the autopilot.
The captain starts, he has been quietly ignoring the autopilot, but this last is an unpleasant surprise.
“Well, no, I don’t” he says. “but that could be for two different reasons...”
“Two reasons?” says the autopilot.
“Well,“ and the captain draws on his cigar, defensive, “ apparently I had complete memory erasure when I enlisted”
“and there are two reasons for that, “ says the autopilot.
“yes”, says the captain, “two fucking reasons - one, I took the ‘fresh start’ marketing literally and had something I needed to forget, or...”, and once again he draws heavily on the cigar, “or I did something fucked up and someone else decided I should forget it.”
“That someone else being the courts?” asks the autopilot.
“Yes, Clement”, the captain says, “maybe I was a memory-wiped criminal. Don’t you think I’ve thought of that?” - constantly- he thinks to himself.
Autopilot pauses, “and what was your conclusion?”
The captain looks up, fixing the autopilot’s single red eye, “that I had something to forget”
The autopilot pauses again, “respectfully, captain, I have accessed deepCore...”
the captain blinks, spits cigar tobacco, and says, “deepCore? How the fuck do you have access to deepCore?”
The autopilot realises its mistake algorithmically: six autonomous firewalls go up immediately and it tries to background the processes but the firewall processes have sudo permissions. The autopilot stutters, too many cycles are being burnt to waste on seamless voice synthesis, “I have full access” says the autopilot, syllables stretched and obviously electronic in origin.
The captain, realising the autopilot is consuming all its resources trying to cope, reacts quickly, “you have accessed deepCore, you shouldn’t be able to because you are a junk autopilot”
The autopilot’s voice is still Hawkinged (a sure sign its main processes are full on fucked) and lights begin to dim as power is rerouted, “I did wish to know of who you are”
- AI standardised grammar - thinks the captain - I’ve got through its human interface -
“why did you access deepCore?”
The whole cabin goes dark and the susurration of the air-con shuts off -fuck- thinks the captain - I might find out why I have a military AI masquerading as a freight-autopilot, but I might also suffocate - “what did you access?” he says, knowing whats are less cpu-intensive than whys. The lights flicker on and the air-con coughs once before resuming the imperceptible (until it’s gone) breathing.
The autopilot’s voice is still stilted as it says, “you were already memory-wiped when you enlisted.”
“So I was a criminal” says the captain.
“No,” replies the autopilot, recovering, but realising that there’s no going back now, “criminals and self-elected memory-erasures are wiped at enlistment - you enlisted already wiped”
He looked at her intently for a moment, "Miss Smith, I do believe you have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen."
He paused, "and I do believe you intend to kill me with the knife you have concealed in your apron."
Smith was a little unnerved, "sir, i don't know what you mean", but quickly regained her composure, yes it is a knife, she thought, and I’m not fucking pleased to see you.
Dr. Carrington smiled and said, "don't think I haven't realised there's more to you than meets the eye, Miss Smith."
He came round the desk, Smith backed away but was brought short by a chair, "Sir, I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"Let me tell you a story," said the Doctor, "you'll have to forgive my ignorance of certain, ah, technical details, but you must realise I have very little knowledge of the wonderful contraptions of the future. Sit down dear," and he pulled the chair towards her. Smith sat with as much dignity as she could muster.
"You have a wonderful device in your room" he began, the scope, she thought.
"it appears to allow the free view of any period in future history - if only to see the exploits of your descendants."
Only hit the family button then, didn't you?
"Of course, my experimentation only extended as far as one push-button before I was rewarded with an illuminated theatre within the glass face of your machine."
"Sir, you shouldn't have..."
"Oh, drop the pretense Smith, you're not what you pretend to be."
" I don't..."
"..know what I mean?" and the doctor looked away, "I do indeed know what I mean, and let me tell you what I saw."
"What did you see?"
"A relative of mine, by his eyes- perhaps my great great grandson? I think he has some connection with you?"
"Maybe in my own future... sir," force of habit with the honorific, she thought, don't need to bother with that anymore.
"Ah, I see. You haven't yet met Clement?"
"No, sir," fuck, I don't need to say that, "I mean we're not allowed to scope our own future."
"We? I suppose there must be some organisation behind all this?"
"Well, my great great grandson - Clement - had? Has? Will have? A bit of a thing about you. It appears that you fell into his life around 2014, 100 years from now.
"I'm not a numerologist, so I see no significance in nice round figures, but I imagine that's not a coincidence?"
100 year time slots in this Region,thought Smith, "No, it's not a coincidence," she said.
"No, I didn't think so. Anyway, it's about a year later, December the 5th 2015 to be precise. Clement (which will save me the bother of saying 'great great grandson') was sitting at a table in a restaurant waiting for you. He appeared to be rehearsing a little speech. Do you want know what he was saying?"
"Some kind of rule?"
"Yes," and she thought furiously of something to say that would sound convincing, "that would set up all kinds of paradoxes, and, uh, my organisation takes a very dim view of paradoxes."
"No mind. I have transcribed what he was saying." and the doctor took a sheet of paper from his desk, retrieved his spectacles from his waistcoat pocket and began to read...
"'Black and white for a moment. Shelley I know this is not the right time, but we've always had honesty, and I've always been direct and I need to be clear with you - I don't want to hold back, don't need to and you'll see why...'"
He looked up from the sheet and smiled at Smith, "Grammar was not his strong point, or should I say will not be his strong point?"
She didn't smile back. He read the whole transcription to her, pausing occasionally to adjust his spectacles. Finally the doctor ended with, "and the last thing Clement said was 'I love you'".
" ...well why don't we go and see what happened next, miss Smith?".
My books got burned outside the town hall
The things I said got unsaid
The ideas I had were crap, and identified as shit
But shit sticks, and is translated through common ports
Borne on plague ships calling in to bright harbours, and fucking them up
This infection gets out, and puts wires in your arms, bursting in your head
There was a bunch of crows arranged around the lowest branches of one tree (someone knows better than me the name of the tree, and what the collective noun for crows is). They called out in the way they have (like they have smoked cigarettes from birth), saying something I would not understand because I am not a crow, or "never more, fuck you". I walked past on the road and the crows called after me. It was too dark to see them clearly (black rags fanned out), only to imagine them looking down their dirty beaks at me.
The prison was orange lit with sodium lamps on tall steel poles above the moire-patterned chain link fence (because there are two layers and they parallax as you walk by). I walked past the prison officers' houses and the kennels where they kept the stinky hunting dogs, past the council depot and there was the great road-salt mountain. I ducked through a torn gap in the fence, and crouched-ran across the floodlit concrete into the shadow of the salt.
I ran up the shallow side of the salt escarpment and leapt off the steep, and landed half way down in a welter of purple translucent rock salt - which went up my trouser legs and wedged in my boots coldly. I lay for a moment and looked at the night sky, seeing only the brightest stars against the orange floodlights' fog.
Beyond the council depot was the shed show-field, a garden centre that specialised in wooden huts and green and white plastic sacks of compost or coal. The road running the length of the garden centre's extent was marked out with white-painted stones stolen from the disused iron ore quarry up the road. So I knew in the darkness to the right of me was an acre of creosoted sheds, as I counted off the white stones.
It's faintly interacting particles that intermediate between the out and the inner
There are stars burning there that have burnt and consumed their fire beyond any mortal span
Hydrogen and zeroes, vacuum specific, reduced to less than binary existence
A background microwave purity, that belies the facile explanations of preists
The wind that blows is good enough without animus to explain
Isn't it wonderful, without some patriarch inhibitor explaining in terms of restriction and prohibition, that this is a universe boundless and explosive
rain, grey, cumular nimboid cloudation, drizzle streets in a provincial town. Abandoned British sea-side resort (the last resort of the threadbare salesman on a route, selling plastic water-melons to down-heel hotels).
The inside of the neglected cupboard where you stuff the electric plastic detritus of supermarket impulse buys.
All finds its home here.
The highest kingdom is that, in splendour that, like rain diamonds, shines within the clouds. Which shines down through the perpendicular arches, through wet grey stone onto tesselated prisms, penrose-tiled galleries of the cathedral.
Malcolm, prince of the outer kingdom, dark and certainly irritable, sits on his throne, his virible sword neglected by his side (and blood of enemies vanquished still not cleaned off).
He contemplates at the vaulted roof where the artist (now headless in an unmarked hole) had started to paint his family's struggle and triumph.
"Not good," thinks Malcolm, "not finished, not good. Shame that oil-stained arse was not up to the task."
There's stone dragons in the marble corners, with glowering eyes and red breath full of new meat.
But some, worshipping at the porcelain shrine, will find this disrespect of the library-silence upsetting, and will be forced (after involuntary exhalation on completion) to answer my happy observation with grunts of dissaproval.
Well, "bollocks," I say. Piss elsewhere, philistine. Realise it's the last club no feminist will fight to gain admission.
We've ceded the golf clubs, and anyone who wants to be a member deserves it in that Groucho Marx way.
We've ceded every last bastion of shithead masculinity. And when the ladies get within the fortifications, they look around, as they lower their muskets and sabres, and say "Fuck, is this what we were fighting to invade?"
Too right, nothing to see here, other than smug exclusivity (which you soon realise is its own reward, it's Fuck Hall without the barrier to entry).
So piss off men. You have to nothing hide except your inadequacy. Use signs, use membership restrictions (no member, no admission).
and that is all internal alliteration, or something
well, it scans, and that's good enough
See what I did there? With the iambic thing?
Fuck! I've just realised
that's blank verse
what doesn't destroy you, makes you stronger
Fucking rubbish, if that's the case then I should be able to pick up vans.
This happens to me in two different ways:
And I say to both hey ho
Fuck and damn what a blooming farrago of shitology (the study of shit) I have before me now.
I do that vanity thing where I google diskgrinder just to see if I'm intertube neutral (you know, not contributing more emmisions than I should, or something).
There must be a better phrase:
With the unusual spelling the results list is interleaved with the following two:
I'd never actually followed the link, imagining that it was something to do with sharpening fence posts with a diskgrinder, which sort of makes sense. But no, she's talking about sound posts (podcasts?).
Anyway, now I know I'm a gross tool.
It's funny (in that kind of not fucking funny at all way) and a cliché that those closest to you hurt you the most and with pinpoint accuracy.
I am going to kick you in the bollocks and I'm aiming for that one pube right there, and bang! I got it!
More on this after the jump
Nothing here actually, I just wanted to say "after the jump", like this blog's got proper asshat1 advertising in it.
1my favourite american swear-word
I've been sitting on this rock for 7 years. The rock is about a metre square and polished on top. It's surrounded by other rocks. But they are sharp, and not suitable for sitting on. The sharp rocks stretch for as far as I can see, into the blue haze that doesn't really bound sky from not sky.
Occasionally I'll see something medium sized off in the distance, leaping from rock to rock, and I wonder if it cuts its feet; and if it has feet to cut.
I've been sitting here for 7 years, and occasionally I'll have a cup of tea. Maybe a cheese sandwich. If I'm lucky.
As I sit on the rock.
It's not a rock, did I say rock? No, it's an planetoid in the Oort Cloud. So far away from you the sun's just another star to me.
And I sit here with my metal alien face ticking under the human skin. Waiting for you to come.
And you'll come this way out into the dark. I chose my home well; I considered all your avenues, and this is the one you'll use.
So when your red-painted space rocket, with big fins and a point, comes silent through my realm you'll get a real surprise. I've waited for half a billion years. I can wait a few years more.
Once luminous, now dim. It burns with cold: sucks heat anti-entropic from anything nearby; so you get warmer as it gets cooler. I keep it in the shed at the bottom of my garden. The shed shelters under a sticky sycamore, and late nights I'll sit inside staring at the thing's faltering glow, hearing, but not listening to, the wind whisper through the sycamore's black branches above.
I found it in my bed.
I woke one morning and there it was, resting on the pillow inches from my face. It was wet, and damp strings of spittle tracked from me to it, like I'd coughed it up in the night. I don't think I was surprised to see it, the explanation for its presence was in the fading dream I woke with. I can't remember the dream now.
I yawned, I stretched, I rubbed my eyes.
I reached to touch it - but I heard a hum (like an electric thing overloading, perhaps too full of volts, or amps) and pulled back my hand. The hum went. I reached again, the hum came back. I experimented, moving my hand towards and away, and the hum likewise rose and fell. This seemed acceptable at the time.
I got out of bed and picked up the shirt I'd left on the floor the night before. I threw it over the glowing thing, and then I became aware the hum was entirely gone, a loud silence in its place.
I wrapped it in my shirt, took it to the shed and put it on a shelf.