Moving Pictures

So here we are, moving very much into video when I had assumed that audio would be the first step forward in my AV experience. I’m not lucky enough to own anything particularly sophisticated with which to produce video content either. It is all very much being made up as I go along. However, what the last two weeks has amply demonstrated is how easy it is, with rudimentary knowledge of working practices, to produce something hugely professional.

Therefore, the world is pretty much mine to exploit as I now choose. The only limit is my imagination and the raw materials available to me. I’ve set a notional target of one sub two-minute video a week, which means Twitter and Instagram are both available as advertising media. We’ll start slow, because I know if I go too big too early it just makes continuation and continuity impossible to sustain. Picking 24 poems from the vastness of my own output is the least of my worries. The possibilities are, quite frankly, infinite.

Recording live video, as it transpires, is not nearly as problematic as might be the case either. Of course, it would be lovely to be able to afford state-of-the-art equipment or the opportunity to learn new techniques but allowing these things to hold back my progress when so many techniques and possibilities are easily available to me would be foolish. The process, undoubtedly, is more important right now. It is learning about myself as a writer, a photographer and ultimately as an artist, bringing all these elements together.

Everything Connected

It’s taken until Saturday for my brain to be awake enough to process everything currently taking place. Living with a mental health issue can sometimes be a curse, especially when you hold yourself to such a high standard of output. However, on the flip side, it gives you a unique insight into life and how it is lived. On many occasions this week it has been an almost painfully slow task to react and move forward, but with the benefit of sleep and reflection, there’s a lot to be learnt about my practice, and how it is progressing.

Once upon a time, my daily writing workout began with the first blog of the day. Right now I’m creating a poem from an unseen visual prompt when I wake, plus organising two Create Your Own short stories using Twitter polls, and this is a whole new use of brainpower in quite focused bursts. It’s meant a lot of mental energy being expended in unexpected areas. It has also promoted a desire to go back to fiction, which is helpful, because NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. This year, we’re doing something a long way away from previous years’ efforts.

I spent two hours last night planning the direction of my narrative. I’ll also be creating a Playlist this weekend. I should have been writing a post for Patreon, and yesterday I accepted that, if I am the boss, it is occasionally okay to miss a deadline if it means my mental health benefits from that action (which it undoubtedly has.) Balancing all the requirements right now is hard, but getting easier. Any change to routines always results with this kind of mental discomfort.

At least now I know what’s going on.

Most importantly of all this week I made a video from scratch. It’s only just beginning to register how much mental effort was pumped into this, and why as a result I might have felt so tired yesterday. I’m immensely proud of what is here, and already have a vastly different, second piece planned. There’s no point in resting on my laurels either: being able to produce and promote my own work means there doesn’t need to be extra cash to pay others to do it. The more leant, the more self-sufficient I become.

In the end, this is the most important progression of all.

September Short Story: Answers to Nothing

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during September 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.

I produce fiction bi-weekly on my Patreon: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format.

Click here to become a Patron.


Answers to Nothing

The advert stands out with minimal effort, lodged between Mrs Parsons’ offer of cheap piano lessons and that window cleaning flyer, placed the day after I’d moved into 13B. It is written on the back of an ancient picture postcard, penmanship at once both brilliant and impressive.

‘Wanted: Person of Good Standing to assist with daily issues appertaining to the numerical complexity of Existence. Must be immaculately presented, punctual, with the most open of minds. Payment will be negotiated on completion of the correct procedural particulars. Bring Card.’

There’s no phone number to contact, obvious lack of address on the written side: assuming the newsagent will hold them is met with first a shrug and then not unexpected indifference. She lets me take the card regardless: without those elements the ad appears effectively useless. Except I’m a local now, can recognise the black and white photograph on the picture’s side. Gauss and Euler, an exemplary art emporium older than me, my home, the newsagents and most of this street combined. A Grade One listed building standing proudly in many forms since the 1300s.

On the other side of town it has become a shrine to the beauty of both form and dysfunction. The University’s art course enthusiastically taught me a whole module on its significance to the city, stretching from the arrival of its original owner to the unassuming village in 1326. Nearly 700 years later, that place is at least 70% national treasure, 20% utter chaos with the rest… well, depending on who you believe, it’s either magical, possessed by evil spirits or a portal to another dimension. The urban legends that have sprung from the shop…? God tier.

I love it for its vegan menu, fact it always has in stock whatever it is in art supplies required without ever having to order, and that it smells of burnt sugar. Without fail, every time I go there I’m back as a kid in Aunt Betty’s kitchen when she’d make special almond brittle. Today I’ve made a special effort. In these trousers, this waistcoat we could be going out in Manchester. The boots glisten, red patent leather doing exactly what was planned, same colour as lips and earrings. My mind is not just open, it’s ready for business, waiting for offers.

Gauss and Euler sits hidden down a side street in the Town Centre, cobbled line between our modern, aesthetically pleasing Shopping Centre and a chain-run coffee shop. It is literally a gateway to another world… except, not today: passageway is unexpectedly, inexplicably shut.

I watch two disgruntled Art College students encounter a door that absolutely never existed here the last time a trip was made for replacement acrylics and charcoal sticks, before deciding to go drink latte and eat muffins instead. Considering my next move, I notice the picture. There’s another postcard, stuck to the door at eye height. The assumption was it explained the closure but instead there is an instruction written in ink so vivid blue the letters shimmer in early morning sunshine.

PLACE CARD HERE.

I look around, suddenly very self-conscious.

Maybe the rumours were actually true. Perhaps there needs to be more than just an open mind at play here. Then there’s a moment of panic: which way to place the card? Maybe this isn’t just an instruction. What if it were a key for a door which might not exist now… don’t be daft. Except, on the postcard, there’s a door like this, with a white square just like that one over there as these tiny people in black and white are no longer just ink and paper but are moving, living beings and then it registers. I just had to think about putting the card in place.

Welcome to August 12th, 1890, when Frobisher and Ashwood, taking this picture, captured the living, breathing heart to my town. They’re behind me now, setting up their equipment, in a space where past and present overlap so seamlessly it is impossible to separate myself from it. I’m not supposed to either: this is a test, first of many. The numerical complexity of existence defines this spot as a focus, billions of possible past and future outcomes radiating from a single, intractably defined point of origin. These photographers captured it accidentally.

That’s why their card is so important, explains as I finally look up why there is no obstruction to the alleyway, but a woman standing there, dressed in a red coat and black trousers that beautifully mirror my own choices. Then, as I blink, she is in front of me, smiling broadly.

“We knew how quickly you’d pick this up. After a while, it’s easy to spot those who Understand and those who will never See. This job is yours if you want it.”

I think about asking what it is that has been offered, but an answer is already in my head, presented by a future self. Standing here, my World is expanding and contracting; wind offering smells that haven’t existed for centuries. Heady richness, past summers when all that stood here was a small stone circle. Ley lines from seven counties converge to a point where one woman first pitched her tent.

No, not her, this isn’t immortality on show but lineage. An ancestor, flame haired, first touched with the taint of Understanding: my Future Self offers a tantalising hint of our possibility, hands intertwined. I can still walk away and all this will vanish, become simple desire. I can’t, won’t, refuse to reject what’s right, correct, flowing through every cell of a body that’s been waiting for this moment for multiple generations. Here is where I need to be. THIS is what I was built to become a part of. After thirty-six years lost an existence is found.

With the next exhale I am back, staring at an alleyway no longer blocked, two art students arguing furiously that there was absolutely a gate here before they went for take-out. My future lover is nowhere to be seen, absolute normality a sudden and reassuring constant. What now?

The shop answers my question, which should not be as much of a surprise as it is but there’s still a moment of disbelief as something touches my consciousness. Burnt sugar. A kitchen, filled with warmth and noise. Aunt Betty’s there, standing in front of me, as I remember her. She passed almost a decade ago: the woman in front of me is at the prime of her life, and quite obviously presented not to frighten a mind that might not already have grasped that this is the way Understanding communicates with the humans that move within it, conducting business.

‘Well, luv, you’ve already grasped the basics that most people take months to properly comprehend, so I should be asking that question of you. Knowing you possess an ability to subconsciously improve the lives of others, but not directly influence events, where would you start?’

The temptation instantly is to head for London, maybe Manchester but brain is already working the problem logically. Dismantling any system at the top level won’t work, or else Understanding would have already done so… unless there’s more at play here than just a force for good…

Betty’s features alter, appraisal now far more critical.

‘That revelation takes even longer to register for most: if Understanding exists, there’s a counter. The Universe is very big on balance, has been since forever. It means that if we’ve found you, Chaos has a new convert.’

Blimey: there are actual, real Agents of Chaos… it’s not just a figure of speech. All this stuff is being engineered, by a presence that can only exist to counter the good. My brain is already drawing conclusions, working out where to go as opposition… but that’s not my task.

It’s my job to destroy all of this for good.

‘Understanding is happy to leave you. Chaos, however, has other ideas…’

She works for the Bad Guys. That woman, destined to become the love of my life, is the latest addition to Chaos Incarnate, and she is inside the shop, waiting. Everything inside consciousness rearranges with a speed that is enough to bring me to my knees. The shop is Chaos, not Understanding. All that time, the Good Guys have been protecting me from them, hiding my ability, keeping me safe until they knew my oppositional twin was ready.

She has already switched sides, coming from the Goodness that once owned this place before Darkness possessed it, warping true power. The final showdown between two massive Universal constants has nothing to do with major players or corrupt government.

It will come down to us.


Change

Most things right now are pretty well-organised, so when I got to FINALLY being in a position to record audio for my own poetry, the process went remarkably well. What was immediately apparent however is that the presentation systems themselves require some thought, and that’s where we are now: how everything looks together, and finding a logo and strap line that can now take the website and my content to it’s next logical evolution.

I know some authors get physically uncomfortable when considered as a ‘brand’ and you can see these people from quite some distance away. Looking like you’re throwing it together as you go along is a skill that would, quite quickly, drive me into the ground with exhaustion. You must be a certain type of artist to succeed with that, and I’m just not. I demand far more order, focus and thought along the way, and so a new logo was born to show an increasing acknowledgement of these truths.

I will no doubt thank YouTube later for making me extract the digit.

I’m in the final production process for a number of videos that will be shown during World Mental Health Day, which I produced in my capacity as a Time to Change Champion. I am very proud of them, and they’ve made me realise what is possible if I set some quite rigid restrictions on how stuff is done. It’s also taught me a great deal about my own resilience as a creator, and that maybe this is a viable means of doing work going forward.

However, I’ve never really been comfortable reading anything to camera, which is why that’s not going to continue in public. I’ll be making audio-only videos going forward for public consumption, if you want to see my face you’ll need to subscribe to Patreon. I have a cunning plan, however, and the first part of it will go live on Thursday, alongside some specially-written poetry for National Poetry Day. I am really pleased with all my work this year.

We have come a very long way in the last twelve months 😀

Same Time, Same Place

I may have mentioned that a poem of mine is going to be published in a hardback anthology on October 1st (now did it, stuff is forgotten so quickly of late…) and with this publication has come a flood of memories from that time last year when the ambitious plan was born. Twenty-four poems in a month seems like a lot, but as it transpires that was exactly the right amount. It was also at the same time that I went into counselling, at the time to investigate the possibility I might be autistic.

It’s amazing how things alter once someone else is there to shift focus. What seemed to matter most back then had pretty much consumed everything that I was. The obsession over a diagnosis had driven everything for close to a year… and then, it became apparent that this was the least of my problems. Looking back at that time, the poetry was what kept me from falling apart. It gave a focus away from all the emotional and mental pressure. My home town became the backdrop for a process of self-healing that is still going on today.

Everything that has followed from that point onwards has pushed me further into a Universe that’s been waiting for my arrival for some time. It was the process of being able to contribute to a project whose validation came not from other people, but purely from myself. What I considered as good enough was the resultant 24 poems and hundreds of photographs, and to then find one of those poems considered good enough to make it into the Anthology… there was a whole second level of belief added to the first.

Sometimes, we need the approval of our peers to move forward. I won’t lie, the increasingly common instances where I am complimented for work, out of the blue, is a gift that continues to keep giving long after the initial moment of brilliance. Its why such moments end up being printed from the Internet and kept. Whatever else may happen, to have positively affected someone’s life, if even for a moment, if a rare jewel of brilliance, and should never be underestimated or belittled.

Over a year on from Places of Poetry, validation now happens in many ways. The dopamine hit is different, my needs and desires altering on an almost daily basis. What remains is the reminder of how much of a debt of gratitude I will owe Andrew McRae and Paul Farley, whose project allowed me to become a better version of myself whist the rest of my existence as in turmoil. That generosity will never be forgotten, and the lessons learnt will shape me as a poet and artist for the rest of my life.

Just a Little

This week’s been a bit unexpectedly brutal. You’ll be seeing this on a Saturday but it’s sitting in Thursday’s blog spot, for reasons that are all over social media. I assume that people read here and follow me, and therefore do my best not to repeat the same stuff. Therefore, if you wanna go catch up, this blog is not for you. Here is where it is admitted, to the room, there is a new poetry collection in progress. I dunno where it will go, or whether it will even see the light of day.

The key here is that it is demanding to be written.

So, why is there a picture of a tasty chocolate bar here? This simple confection has been the subject of a very vocal, extremely entertaining family ‘dispute’ for a couple of weeks now. It was the first time, in some time, I’d felt comfortable enough to really contribute to anything frivolous. Amazingly, the Penguin became a metaphor: you can be yourself, even if there are consequences. It is okay to be different, if you can accommodate other people whilst doing so.

Then, a publication I enjoy launched their pamphlet contest and I found myself thinking of reasons why I couldn’t enter. I’d be never good enough for them, there are other things in contest, you don’t need to do anything else… and there were reasons piling up to not try something new. My brain was already placing obstacles in my way, to produce something of the standard required.

I’m not going to be that person any more.

The rules, therefore, are simple: no miring myself in chaos. No stressing about it. Write when you feel like it, don’t get lost in the work. If it makes you overly emotional, walk away. The task here is a realistic interpretation of where you exist as a human being. If all that can be achieved, I’m doing pretty well. So far, I’m halfway through. Once this is written, I’ll probably do some more. Undoubtedly, as I do, a Penguin will be involved.

Being kind to myself is part of the new rule set.

The Last Time

An awful lot got done this last week, but not nearly enough. It’s always the way, you provision time for things to be completed, and then it becomes apparent that you’ve massively underestimated the amount of work required. I am becoming fantastic at this, and therefore there needs to be a bit of a rethink over the time management side of things. Fortunately all of this effort is front-loading. It’s architecture, and that always takes the most effort.

After this, everything gets considerably easier. I just bolt stuff on top and suddenly, there’s content. I’ve seen other people state that learning how to project manage is the skill they wish they’d properly grasped before starting anything. Nothing is ever an exact science. I get, thanks to exercise, how a shift of one muscle group or a rethink of your body placement can be the difference between success or failure. Again, that just has to be translated to my other issues to address.

This is me, permanently shifting stance to maintain balance.

The latest piece of Patreon content is out this month, and (honestly) this is the best thing I’ve made this year. I’m charging a five a month, more or less, for people to read it and although some days the process feels like pulling teeth, it is worth the effort. This month we’ll have a digital print to sell too which I need to do some research on in terms of sales. I’m going to do a run of 25 ‘prints’ all numbered which my daughter and I will sign. When she makes it big in the future, she’ll be the signature everybody wants 😀

Me, I’m here to make some money to pay for web hosting and printing materials. Just trying to break even at this time is the goal, or to get a decent amount of cash for my time. There is a break even point I have notionally aimed for, and when that is reached then I know there’s real, tangible progress. Until then, yet again, it’s all architecture. The foundations are placed, you build walls, a way in and out, and incentives for people to come and stay.

That’s all you will ever realistically be able to achieve.

If you’re a Patron, there’ll be space for you soon here that’s exclusively yours and nobody else’s. I’ll provide passwords by the end of this week assuming that everything goes to plan… but who knows what will happen between there and now. I’ve watched the World go south a few times this year, and coping is getting easier each time. In this case, one can only hope that it’s not a major disaster close to home.

That’s the thing about life right now, you never quite know what to expect…

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.