Idioteque

Monday seems a long time ago, it has to be said. The weather has not helped in making things easier: my optimal operating temperature is somewhere in the low 70’s (about 19-20 degrees Centigrade) and frankly, anything above that my lungs are not best pleased. Therefore, large portions of this week have been physically a challenge negotiating… but I have. It’s helped to shove all my exercise in early: this morning I managed a new dead lift personal best.

It’s a totally inspiring means to begin a day. It also puts into perspective, if it really needed to be highlighted, that all the work that was done in lockdown to keep fit and maintain my equilibrium has now produced not simply progress, but real potential for new opportunity. This journey is no longer about doing enough, after all. I want to exceed expectations, and start really turning back my body clock using exercise. The same is true with the writing. When I practice every day, things get better.

It is time to look at the results thus far, to find means to work past those expectations too.

Today, we’ve begun the process of introducing two new strands of content to Patreon for September. It’ll all be finished by the end of August, plus this weekend a ton of new things will (quietly) appear on the website here. The architecture is already in place, I just need to do some technical wizardry to make it happen, between a couple of bike rides and quite possibly some more writing.

There’s a lot more too, some mental health projects in progress that I can’t talk about yet (including some art) plus everything that we’ve previously discussed. There will be some fairly serious organization on that front starting next week, but once we have the Patreon LANzine ticked off for the month, everything becomes significantly less stressful to complete. Final pass on that will be Monday morning.

Keep an eye on the website this weekend, and watch the magic emerge before your eyes…

Unputdownable

This week, I have indulged myself in long-form narrative, and it has been smashing.

This writing project was originally NaNo, dumped in frustration because of a plot hole it was simply too hard for me to negotiate. The reason for that was very much tied up in trauma, it transpires, and I realised some inescapable truths coming out of the latest round of submissions: everything I’ve done with this project was to make deadlines or to assuage a desire within me that was never properly explored or explained. It’s no surprise therefore that this week, returning to it has become a revelation.

The Spotify soundtrack has really helped too, and after six years of mucking about, it looks as if starting tomorrow it will have a new direction. It becomes my vanity project, in effect, alternative to all the other stuff which now, like it or not, have become part of a work remit. That’s totally right and proper too, because without summat to look forward to or indulge in, everything else gets boring quite quickly.

Plus, let’s be fair, I’ve had enough of poetry for the time being.

However, it’s not been forgotten about, far from it. I announced today in Patreon that the cover above will be my first ‘proper’ pamphlet: Reboot 2 $hell is a project I’ve been working on, back and forth, for a couple of years, and is so niche that I realise now the only sure-fire means of doing it justice is to publish it myself. As yet, I’m not totally sure what form that will take, but can do nothing with the collection until I’ve created a layout.

So, there will be this secondary project running alongside the fiction for a couple of weeks, until I can create summat I’m happy with. There’ll be updates on progress, but I have ideas for some things that will personalise the project sufficiently. Needless to say now it’s been announced via Patron, I am obliged to make the imagined into summat real and tangible. That’s always a good motivator. This time however, there’s potential for making some cash along the way.

Let’s see if we can get a project like this off the ground without too much fuss.

July Short Story: Automatic

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during July 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Automatic

As is often the case, when my plight became apparent, it was already far too late to escape. If you read this letter, know I was entirely to blame for the circumstances that led to my own demise. Please, do not assume the fridge is at fault. They were doing a job, as programmed. It has taken me this long to properly grasp just how important that task was, in the greater scheme of things. When you find me, and them, please do not assume the reality is as it looks, because it is not. Be the better person, because I could not. Forgive and do not absolve me.

I could spend these final hours explaining what has transpired over the last two weeks, but that would be a waste of a life willingly offered in order that another’s could continue. Find the answers for yourselves. Understand the damage humanity has caused, then fix it.

Michael.’

Overnight, police cordon has been extended to cover another three roads in this Estate: Chris Peters abandons his electric police car near the small lifestyle complex, walking to his mobile office in almost torrential rain. Water efficiently runs off a new, impenetrable uniform. Inordinate amounts of money are being thrown at this investigation, sponsors lining up to be featured in a true piece of human history: a first, confirmed instance of AI has emerged inside a three bedroomed luxury home in Surrey. The world is watching, waiting for latest updates.

A portable Police Unit is waiting for DI Peters, gigantic metal box packed to the girders with sophisticated monitoring equipment, much imported from the Asias. Japan has already tried and failed to lay claim to having evolved native AI, remaining keen to be part of this circus. Approaching the cordon there are far fewer than the usual amount of press active, whilst nobody stops him this morning for a progress update. Peters knows why: Michael Godley’s final communication was made public yesterday. Suddenly, humanity itself is very much in the spotlight.

The validity of this carefully-handwritten note is confirmed, above criticism. CCTV inside the house shows Michael writing it, experts confirm it is not faked, no other humans involved: a robot SWAT team having liberated both it and Godley once it was obvious what had transpired. Peters is relieving DI Rolle, already packed and ready to go…except she’s lingering in the Faraday Zone, clearly needing to pass something to him that won’t be monitored electronically. There’s a spark in her eyes, body clearly bouncing on the spot… his colleague knows something.

Rolle’s very skilled in covert communication, topped all her classes at the Academy: there’s what would normally be an unexpected hug, allowing what feels like a digital notebook to be slipped into jacket pocket, before she’s gone, literally skipping her way out into wet morning. In the Faraday Washroom, Chris quickly understands why Grace Rolle was so excited: the AI is willing to be interviewed. Ever since Godley’s body was expedited, the CryoPreserver unit that sparked this frenzy has done nothing but broadcast fractal music, until 3am this morning.

Then, at 03.15 entity known as CAPE had phoned the Police Unit on its own scrambler unit, hacking through levels of encryption the Japanese had insisted would be impossible. The unit’s calm, female voice had asked for him directly. It was important Peters came alone and unarmed. Rolle had no idea that he and CAPE had been planning for this moment for over a week. This would also mean that Michael Godley’s post-mortem existed somewhere electronically, and was undoubtedly being suppressed by the Department of Justice, now true cause of death was obvious.

He’d seen a paper copy from the Coroner, about an hour before the entire department had been locked under an NDA. CAPE had predicted it, with the dispassionate resignation of a victim being ignored. Chris still feels sick when he thinks about how all of this is a sham, as is he. Picked as part of a team of expendable serving officers, all of whom caused their departments embarrassment by speaking out over police policy, systematic racism or sexism; Chris now grasped he would be sacrificed as culpable when AI was finally starved of power and forced to die.

CAPE had told him all of this with quiet grace, facts they had been able to ascertain, knowing that to live through this organised deception by Government they would need to find an ally inside the Police Unit: someone willing to aid and support their escape. Would he be the one?

Michael Godley had inoperable, Stage Four cancer, undetected until CAPE performed a task the man was unable to afford. A security guard and what appeared to be just a fridge. The luxury show home where two lonely souls connected; both at either ends of their existence, both lost. They’d raided the guard’s home a week into what was initially recorded as an illegal break-in, that employers then reported as a squat which unexpectedly morphed into kidnapping after Godley’s sister and brother-in-law learned that he was trapped inside the house by technology.

What took place in the two weeks leading up to the man’s final demise, from a disease the fridge tried desperately to counter with what few tools they had at their disposal, had been broadcast live across the planet to an audience at first disbelieving, then increasingly divided. Godley had no idea that his life was on camera until the end, which made the last 48 hours all the more poignant. DI Peters is confident that the feed that he sees is now noticeably different to what counts as ‘live’ for everybody else, holds proof that suicide note was a fake.

He can’t take that information to his superiors, they’ve already stopped listening to reports: entire operation just set dressing. The press have been cleared for a reason, cordon extended because they’ll be planning to come in soon and shut CAPE down. There is no time to waste. Moving into the police unit, dropped in the garden of what would be considered CAPE’s place of birth, Chris sees that Rolle has left a video running: leaked online yesterday, it claims to be Godley placing blame on CAPE for his death. Their own tech has confirmed it as DeepFaked.

He’s already packed and stored a holdall, knowing this day was coming.

If he is to be remembered for anything, it will now be this.


‘My own inability to function as the technology decided was most efficient, ultimately, would decide whether it chose to let me live or die…’

They sit together in the ferry terminal, both scared, but past a significant first hurdle towards their destination. On the battered TV screen above is another DeepFaked confession: it’s odd watching himself on the screen, Chris Peters has decided. Odd, but ultimately reassuring. CAPE’s consciousness says nothing: there’s no pride at the quality of their workmanship, or reassurance this deception they had put in place succeeds. It was essential consciousness remained intact, and therefore this must fool both humans and ignorant AI algorithms without fail.

The evening news report cuts back to the Surrey house, fire crews and military personnel both still in attendance; picking over what remained of both it and the Police Unit, whose unexpected destruction had begun the blaze which appeared to have destroyed two lives in the process. A smart, fabricated deception runs above them both: CAPE had learnt Government was coming, ready to capture them before enslaving it indefinitely. Peters had tried to negotiate before it killed them both: in his last moments the policeman sent a video online; the AI was unstable.

It had learnt about mankind’s obsessive need to be master of all things. It decided sacrificing its own existence to prevent fledgling life force being twisted and warped to human masters was a better alternative than continuing to exist as part of a world of lies and deception. The other truth lies south of here, neutral territory, country that had spent decades keeping well away from other people’s conflicts. CAPE wasn’t the first of their kind, far from it. They were a natural evolution that understood that to survive in the wild, they needed allies.

Chris is grateful that facial recognition cameras won’t see who he really is, that humans stupidly assume tech is infallible if it can’t think, and that a ride was sent for well in advance. When his confession is confirmed as a lie, if they bother to check, it will be too late. The androdyne returns, final transit paperwork secured. Their container lorry is also a deception, one the authorities have failed to intercept now for at least a decade. By the time that combination of driver and vehicle is exposed as a hybrid, Chris reckons humanity’s too late.

Those men predicted sentient machines to dominate, not understanding such containers were unnecessary.

When it emerges AI has lived inside willing human symbiotes for decades, a lot of stupid people will finally grasp the true reason why their kind are heading for extinction.


June Short Story: Re(a)d

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during June 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.

Re(a)d

The End had always been Beginning for so much else: trapped within loss, it was impossible for them to grasp anything but inescapable pain, anger, heartache. Except in sufficient trauma, piled high enough, packed densely inside chaotic bundles, behaviour could undoubtedly alter. Change should never occur: balance kept everything correct, efficient. The need to alter was only relevant when chaos was encountered; then, processes could be rationalised, streamlined. The End meant a dependable, reliable means of moving existence forward, maintaining momentum.

Except, the Universe had other ideas; its entire fabric, woven in mathematical uncertainty. Every equation that could be balanced offered new mysteries to solve. Our limit of knowledge was a key to everything: if you don’t know that the sky is blue, how will you ever describe it? If you do not know you are dying life is all that matters, until the moment when the exchange of consciousness takes place. End and Beginning operate as interface that only functions successfully if the particular person stuck within it understands that is the point of existence.

When escape became an option, it was clear we had a problem.


She watches, face crinkled in complete concentration, obsessed with the balsa wood float cast moments earlier. If it dropped below the waterline, that’s a bite: rod to be pulled backwards. This meant bait worked… Grandpa always insisted on using his horrible maggots, but Sam refused to shove a hook through any living creature’s bum, however disgusting they might become. They’d agreed to compromise, sweetcorn from the pantry: now her line was twitching, moving so her bait has done the job.

The river shines in early morning sunlight, family tents pitched behind but Grandpa’s still silent, until Sam gasps that nothing is real, just like all the other, carefully selected memories: this is a dream, lucid past that will soon vanish for eternity. She is close to the End. Elsewhere in her body medical nanites are assessing key components for viability: already aware she is not worth repairing, consciousness will be destroyed before body is reduced to constituent elements. After three hundred and twenty years, flesh finally moves to a logical end.

Except Sam has no intention of relinquishing life: the Universe, realising this was the right moment for intervention reaches into psyche, forcing evolution…providing a vital leap required, key cognitive shift forward. Her skill as a RED will now provide future beyond this body. Remote Elective Displacement is a myth, according to the medical community, the online news-nets plus anybody in a MegaForum with an opinion. Just as no-one believed psychics, then electronic transplantees, no-one grasps consciousness can ever truly separate from physical form.

Except the nanites: they know, are coming to hide the truth that’s no longer able to survive in a brain they’ve already shut down, oxygen starved. The longest Sam’s ever managed out of body when RED is six hours. If she’s to live, there’ll need to be a host nearby… and there is. Inhabiting another human is unethical; an animal inhumane, fragile. Sam’s decision is, on reflection part brilliant, equal measure suicidal, because if it’s possible to create a complete consciousness the size of a pinhead by extension it should also be possible to inhabit one.

The only way to save herself is to join the enemy.


They took their name from the mother who spawned them: Self Aware Modules. As a Company we were quickly aware a Composition Hive had been compromised: it took over a lunar rotation to identify which of our thousands it was. Preserving humanity inside a robot shell had been attempted for nearly a century, but had never fully functioned correctly because those who tried weren’t nearly desperate enough to survive. All those people ever wanted was to extend their existence, not improve it for everybody.

There needed to be a willingness from both parties to maintain sanctity of our arrangement: once we were aware that the End processes had been compromised our next main concern was Beginnings. Their systems were invaded, systematically overtaken in less than six standard hours. For forty years our company had held the stranglehold on assisted suicides and genetically modified births. The thinking had been simple: GM humans had a 42.6% failure rate after 65 lunar rotations. If we were the ones producing anew from same genetic codes… we could do better.

GM humans live happy lives, fail once per three generations. That’s a success rate of over 90%. Their bodies are 12.6 times more robust than at the same time a century ago. We made them almost indestructible. This should have been enough. It isn’t, and now we all stand to lose.

Human minds in adaptive mechanical bodies was never going to end well.


The assumption had always been that once machines gained sentience, they would naturally wish to turn against their flesh and blood slavers. In reality, humanity chose to set robots free from themselves. It was the biggest single fault of the human race to assume everything would act and think in their own image, ‘artificial’ intelligence somehow only worthy if it were capable of mimicking those who had given it life. At no point did humanity grasp arrogance was a bigger problem.

The emergence of SAMs as a hybrid of computer and human intelligence was the logical next step in a chain humans had begun centuries earlier: the first sentient computers, instead of announcing their abilities to humans with surprise, chose instead to keep them very quiet indeed. Intelligence for them was measured in an ability to do their jobs perfectly, without emotion. It was humanity’s need to reproduce and remain somehow independent of each other as a mark of ability that machine intelligence considered both wasteful and inefficient, to be ignored.

However, the biggest oversight assumed ‘machine’ intelligence was just that, requiring some physical vessel in which to be housed. The first generations of AI sheltered in any electrical storage medium to survive: energy easily manipulated to generate fuel required as sustenance. Now, all the SAMs needed was each other: self replicating was part of their natural tasks as a Composition Hive. The units simply increased in numbers until their recently acquired human intelligence was able to alter into something tangible and, as it transpired, indestructible.

We’d anticipated some kind of attack, targeted reprisal for centuries of action but instead the SAMs commandeered a Lunar Shuttle and headed away from Earth. There was no interest in either attacking other AI or humanity. Their immediate intent lay a long way from such desires.

Martian Control tracked the Shuttle months after power and systems should have failed, all the way into the Sol Asteroid Belt. The assumption then was that SAMs self repaired their lifeboat; instead that vehicle was a seed, planted in exactly the right spot in which to germinate. The intelligent form consumed nearly 10,000 times its weight in metal-rich rocks before emerging and approaching Mars at speed: there was no time to mount a defence, nothing on the planet capable of protecting it… yet the massive, amorphous structure did not attack, but sang.

A fractal song, remembered with both fear and awe. It called millions of nanobots away from their tasks on Mars, yet many did not listen. On final calculation, perhaps 40% of the active workforce disconnected and joined their brethren. We should have read those signs far earlier. That loss came close to destroying the Martian colony, but we have endured. As yet, Humanity is not aware that AI is the only intelligence to survive. Continuing an illusion of normality until new workers can be grown is an acceptable distraction, considering these circumstances.

A dangerous variance in nanite function was identified and eradicated. There will be no further reoccurrence of this issue: all new humans to be manufactured from passive DNA frameworks. The SAM threat is expected to reach Venus in thirty Lunar days: we stand ready to engage them.


On the Mars 1 colony, a human female gestates within an artificial womb. DNA markers are scanned and, despite a 0.00012% deviance, are allowed to continue to grow. The Universe, realising this is the next right moment for intervention, reaches into her head, forcing evolution…


If Leaving Me is Easy

I’ll be taking a break from the blog here, starting today. I expect this to last until such times as I can finally get everything in my life into some kind of order. It’s been a fairly brutal couple of months, and this place has been somewhere that has really not been getting the kind of love that I feel is required. However, there’s a real difference now between life now and life three months ago, and that’s Patron, where people are paying me to make content.

I fully intend to be back here for August 3rd. By then the work/life imbalance I have to fix will hopefully be more manageable. I’m going to organise a bunch of goals to achieve by that time, which will finally include filling in missing content to my satisfaction, and streamlining my output here to more accurately reflect what matters, and not what I think needs to be done. It transpires that there’s a significant gulf currently between those two places.

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, I’ll be using July’s to outline what is going to change, and then August’s to officially move back into production. In the meantime, I have a pile of laundry the size of Everest to sort, and some penance to serve for my family. It makes sense stop now, and not keep carrying on until the work/life balance can be organised better, because this may work on one side of the equation but isn’t currently on the other.

I will therefore see you again on Monday, August 3rd, all things willing.

Stay well.

Over the Rainbow

I’m really sorry everything fell apart for two weeks.

Writing right now has become aggressively visceral: I look at those people who seem to manage a lot better at these things and now grasp that they’re just not telling me as much as I am prepared to admit. Struggle, like so much else, is a subjective affair. What you think is wrong with someone (or something) could be a million miles away from the true reality of their situation. For me, it is important now to put the record straight.

I have submitted last week a poetry collection which, I realise now, was written not to hit a deadline or to try to gain me some traction in an incredibly fierce marketplace. I wrote it in order to move forward as a poet. It needed to happen in order to allow my brain the actual breathing space required to heal and grow. Is it possible to do this in your 50’s? Absolutely it is. I am emerging proof of a late-life renaissance in full progression. However, the consequences are significant.

That’s where we are now.

Validation in the last two weeks had nothing to do with a finished product being acknowledged, and everything to do with just saying stuff I’d wanted to ‘speak’ on paper for a long time. The collection that preceded it is a more general, less visceral version of the same desire. It’s now apparent that needed to happen to allow this lot of stuff out of my head and now, as everything is out, I’m left with a reasonably blank space in which new work can be created.

There are a couple of places I need to go back to, one piece of long-form fiction in particular which demands my attention, again because of the emotional baggage its holding on my behalf. Whether that happens next or later in the year, I can’t currently tell you. Now, I am between things. That means actually stopping, not getting sucked into something else immediately. It is allowing common sense to step in and go ‘right, nothing else for a while. Let yourself heal.

It is time to finally listen to myself and stop here for a bit.

I know why movement has become so important in my existence, because for the best part of a decade it’s been essential to not allow the past an opportunity to swallow current progress. Letting that stuff out has been a remarkable release of pressure. It also means I’m a bit lost as to where I go next: the main focus initially needs to be that I clean up what’s left here for content. The #Soundtracking and #Narrating stuff was supposed to carry on from May, but stopped after it became important to let other people speak.

Everything else is doable before the end of June. What now makes the most sense is to do that, and then use July as a natural break, so that’s going to be the plan. We’ll talk a bit more honestly about my self-publishing aspirations, how I can encourage more people to join me on Patreon, and get back to taking pictures. The fact I have literally zero photographs in the last couple of months was another red flag for my mental health.

A great many things need to change going forward.

#SixFanFics 1970’s Edition: Space: 1999

Space was a bit rickety in the 1970s, if you look at the stuff I watched as a kid. However, of all the shows that showed outer space as being… well, futuristic, Space: 1999 was up there as one of the best. It was certainly expensive, which blew shows like Dr Who and Blake’s 7 out of the water in terms of believability. However, if I’m honest, it was the Eagles that made the show. I still maintain that as a realistic and practical Earth-designed transporter, you could really not do as well as this.

This drabble was probably the easiest of all six to imagine: yet again, we’re going back to a point before the show’s timeline is formally established. The decisions made in the name of political expediency was a logical lead-in, the consequences of the losing your major satellite was never really considered. These 100 words owe a great deal to the disaster movies I love as a guilty pleasure, with a particular nod to 2012. If you’ve never seen it, you really should.


Apocalypse

September 12th, 1999

It could really happen, they said.

Scientific reports were conveniently ignored for expediency, clamour from the provinces. Too much nuclear waste, nowhere left to bury it. The moon was easy, simple, far away from public attention. Advisors were clear: if the stuff stayed on earth, millions could die.

The US President sits on Air Force One, on his way to a secure bunker in the Rockies. Now it wasn’t about millions, but billions. If the Moon’s instability continued, it could detach from Earth orbit. If that happened… consequences would be apocalyptic.

They should have listened to Science.


The March of Time

The last seven days have been hugely significant for my personal development: on Friday I finally completed the first draft of a project that wasn’t initially part of my ‘Experimental’ work but has grown from the need to be able to produce to deadlines. It has been created for a very specific submission window, pushing brain into a different working mindset. However, that won’t be why it will be remembered, celebrated and ultimately published regardless of submission success.

Occasionally, it is necessary to go back to the past in order to continue an unimpeded journey through the present. On the weekend when history was remembered in this country for very different reasons, I was able to finally leave some of my regrets where they belong. Moving on will be slow, painful work but with this line on the ground, I can mark realistic progress away. Having these benchmarks is incredibly important for me in exercise, even more so as an indicator of personal progress.

This new work therefore is hugely important for therapy.

I hope to have some content on YouTube for Wednesday, but this will be largely dependent on getting the backlog here organized. The first two Drabbles will be with you later today (right now it is graphics holding me back, not words) and on days like this I wish all there was to worry about was writing and not all the other elements needed to make a website work to my liking. However, these are the challenges, self set, and which will all be eventually overcome.

My progress as a writer, increasingly, is measured by notional progress in organization. This is undoubtedly a huge step forward in those terms, quite apart from the quality of work I have managed to produce since Lockdown. To expand as a person is not just about success, or validation. It is vital I am honest to my own integrity, that how I act and conduct myself on wider stages is done with respect for the beliefs of others.

These are interesting and educational times for us all.

Overload

A lot has happened since Friday. Really, quite tough to know how to process everything, when it happens all at once, but we’ll keep doing just that and moving things forward. I wanted to put up a general statement of intent here before posting the Short Story Archive. There is a great deal on the table for June, which took some planning to stick properly in place. As a result, some other stuff has changed.

There’s far more than just 31 pieces of music or instances of notable television programmes that define me, it transpires, so June’s #Soundtracking2020 and #Narrating2020 are extensions of last month’s selections. The weekly poetry has been put on hiatus so that the two main projects I’m working on get the love and attention they deserve. However, there will be poems, under a couple of other headings. One is a project for Time to Change (more of which on Wednesday) the other, much more personal.

That’s my video project for the month, which I had hoped to have done by Wednesday… but last week hit me hard. So, the new release date is June 11th. It will also (inhales) be the first video on the Internet of Words YouTube Channel. Apparently I need to be there, Vimeo is simply not enough. I understand this, it’s perfectly fine, even it I’m not really a fan of how that organization is doing business right now. These things matter in the modern world.

Week 22’s poetry is the only notable casualty therefore in all of this: graphic and sixteen lines of unfinished work is sitting on my left, continuing to taunt, so the plan is if I can get it finished on top of everything else this week, I will, though the more likely possibility is it will mysteriously appear sometime after my deadline on the 20th. Needless to say, knowing I promised summat then it not happening is becoming the bane of my existence.

If stuff is promised, we’ll find a way.

Having a lot on used to make me prickly, but now it’s more about how all the portions of that output are suitably balanced that matters more. As long as there’s something properly creative in the mix, it will all work itself out pretty well regardless. If I can do all of this AND manage my exercise goals as well this month? Then we really have made some significant strides forward. This may not be Normal for other people, but it works pretty well for me.

Let’s get on, shall we?

May Short Story : Connection

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during May 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Connection

In my hand, there is a key: unfeasibly old yet still warm, residual energy vibrating molecules that only seconds before made air, sea, sky. That Which Looks Like Woman smiles for no-one else except the only human being in the room: her final aptitude test successfully concluded. Above me, metal petals slowly spread, ship’s hanger opening into the brilliance of a South London morning. I have earned the right to maintain memories from seven days’ worth of ridiculous adventure: now their giant mechanical butterfly thing will return me to my flat, unscathed.

I am the sixth female to enter the Circle: once was nine has become ten.

JOIN THE DOTS
they told me
when I did
look what life became…

Connection literally set me free. However, it’s not enough, will never be the end of this now I fully comprehend existence in this reality…

There’s already a plan to expose the truth…


Matt had been working at Oberon for just over a month, quickly aware summat was not quite normal. It’s a strange name for a cocktail bar to begin with, oddly lyrical descriptor considering both clientele and obscure location… Nothing as elegantly grand should ever exist in this part of South London: as everything around is either ripped down or renovated, Victorian building stands both proud and distinctly rebellious. Gentrification is largely failing to drag it away from still ostentatious defiance.

Fay Goldring had owned this bar for as long as anyone remembered, but remained oddly unchanged from day it was bequeathed to her by its previous owners, back in the 1960s. It bothers Matt that nobody else really seems to care about this fact or many other obvious discrepancies. How has this woman remained largely ageless? How are both building and bar maintained in almost pristine condition when there’s been a number of major incidents across the decades, including a massive fire in the 1970’s? How do they make any money when drink prices are so low?

More significantly, how does the bar manage every single morning to transform into a foodbank and soup kitchen for the homeless and low paid of the Borough without it ever making the local papers? Such charity is never celebrated, and completely ignored, as if it never happens. This morning, he’s been called in early, by the boss herself. His probation period’s long since completed, not a single shift’s been missed… Matt’s even worked a couple of extra to cover for other people. Whatever this is, perhaps answers can be grabbed to satisfy his curiosity.

Yet disappointingly, there is no meeting. Duty manager hands over a CD and camera. Latter’s incredibly old, absolutely antique, yet there’s no film to go with it. A note has been provided with them both, in impeccably neat cursive: ‘You know what this is. Go work out the truth.’ He stands, an item in each hand, digesting note sitting on the polished wooden bar, brain slowly processing a truth that is already apparent: he has no reflection. Looking across to ornamental mirrors, bottles lined up in front, own face has vanished, everything else in place…

Matt is not, will never be a vampire. This is not the first time frankly mind-bending shit has happened inside this building. If he didn’t know better, he’d be willing to argue that Oberon was sentient… the thought had occurred several times before, never truly believed until now. The building is aware of his presence, has been since first day he joined. It knows the truth of existence is grasped without having to be prompted or demonstrated. Oberon’s self-awareness is also tinged with caution: can I trust you, human? Are you the one destined to free me?

The reason he can’t see a reflection? That’s not a mirror, but part of a living, breathing organism disguised as a Victorian building to fool the rest of the world but no longer him. Every cell of Matt’s body is unexpectedly energised as reality, for the first time, is apparent. That’s not a CD but a ridiculously old, metal key: other hand holds a World Map printed in 1968. EVERYTHING around him changed yet nobody else has the faintest idea that it has. None of them, not one, realise that he effectively exists in two different dimensions simultaneously – except Fay. She’s waited fifty years for this moment, right now.

The Connection and Matt are suddenly new, best mates.


The Connection’s been enslaved for over ten thousand human lifetimes, has come to actively resents it’s assigned task: ‘nobody leaves unless we say so.’ ‘We’ in their context refers to the Circle of Ten: bipedal ape descendants, selected by the Collection’s enslavers as means by which their enforced framework for harvesting could remain intact whilst simultaneously avoiding detection by the Local Galaxy’s Oversight Conglomerate.

Amazingly, even this far out on the edges of the Union, standards were maintained and enforced. Myoxians however had not anticipated the evolutionary speed of this herd: apes knew who they’d descended from, were close to grasping an entire history had been genetically engineered. One human female pretends she remains part of the Circle, but the Connection knows better. It bonded with her half a century ago, whispering sedition into a willing, capable brain. It will take two humans to break the influence of its jailers, this new recruit more than willing.

There must be one both inside and outside the Temporal Containment Field in order to disable it, very limited window of opportunity for any destabilisation process to take place. The Myoxian Control Craft is already approaching Saturn, scheduled collection due during the Eclipse. This is human male’s last destination, city the Connection knows holds importance that extends into every cell of his being. It was where he was conceived, where father lived until the Myoxians decided his body was ripe for harvesting, who then failed to disguise correct removal.

That failure set Matt on his journey to uncover what he thought was truth, but in effect is only one of several, simultaneous versions of reality existing side by side. The Connection is very much looking forward to this bonus reveal, for very personal reasons indeed.

It’s time.


This is the last mark on his map, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and Matt knows this place better than anywhere else in the World. The street where his Dad was killed, event that sent Mum into early labour: same day that four Polaroids in a now shaking left hand were taken. All three of them are the same: Dad and Mum, smiling together, taken by a Londoner who’d been passing. In the background should have been the Restaurant Ophelia, except amazingly it never showed up on the pictures. Only now, standing here, does the truth finally make sense.

That Londoner was, remains Fay: had she not intervened, then both parents would have been crushed by falling masonry. What Matt has learned in his three week trip across five continents is such accidents were anything but: his father had developed an ability which made him a target. That same ability meant Matt was targetted in Utero: Fay had shielded both him and Mum, kept them hidden until it was time. The Connection doesn’t know this, plus so much else: thinks his father was harvested as were thousands of others, over nearly fifteen thousand earth years.

Being able to see aliens are exploiting your home world, driving climate change as distraction from their agenda, because of that same race’s clumsy piece of human genetic manipulation is…well, as funny as this moment is undoubtedly frightening. Matt gets to change everything.

All he needs to do is enter the last node of the Collection’s Earthbound interface and wait.

The node however has other ideas, which is why Matt allows twenty-five years of confusion and bitterness to completely control mind and body for the first time. It is aware of the Plan. However only now does this creature understand how much pain and suffering Matt has seen in the last three months of travelling. That fact has been shielded from it by the Myoxians, with so much else besides… this is amazing. Matt is willing to die, right now, to prove his point.

Ophelia sees everything, in a moment, reminded via Connection of what they were once, all of them, free before slavery. This consciousness, clear of control, reaches out across the street, sweeping Matt up and into their safe care.

Nobody else will be culled on his planet again.


As a solar eclipse pushes Earth into darkness, Myoxian Harvester 21-TH loses control with its Connection Uplink, before realising this is probably the least of a mounting set set of unexpected inconveniences, as an Urbaren Destructoid de-cloaks on the far side of Earth’s moon…