Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 10

"Yeah.  So I let walk back there.  That was a mistake, I suppose.  Then again, looking at it now, I blame myself for everything working out okay.  That seems fair to me."
The Madness of Shiloh, article on the Roosevelt News Stream

As I stepped into the Medunit, I nearly was run over by Sam.  It didn't take to get there long, the medunit had always been only a block or two away from my family's house.  It was a tiny place, and had the layout of a two-bedroom apartment.  Most of the time, emergency care was quick like that.  I always heard about discussions with Autogov on expanding or reducing its size.

Since the two of us almost got trapped in the doorway together, I understood why some people would petition to change its size.
"Uh... Hi." I said, the two of us nearly tangling in the door.  I said the next two words as quietly as I could.  "Remember me?"

Sam stopped.  He had a determined look in his face.  Realizing who he'd almost barreled through, he took a step back.  Putting a hand on the back of his head, he tried to look apologetic.  It was kind of cute, considering all he had on was a hospital gown.

"Oh.  Sorry Kensha.  I need to... uh... get going."

"Like that?"  I cocked an eyebrow and pointed at him.

He blushed.  "Oh.  Well, I didn't have clothes and my father is- I need to go home."

Then my mom appeared behind Sam.  She looked like she was losing her patience with him.

"Sam, you can't go like that."

Sam sighed.  He still was blushing.  Mom then spotted me.  Oops.

"So you've met my daughter then?"

"She said I can't go out like this."  He waved a hand at his hospital gown.  "Where are my clothes?"

I chuckled.  Sam frowned at me.  I pointed to a locker behind him, against the wall.

"Oh.  Well I'm an idiot then."  Sam said mostly to himself.  I realized that Sam didn't seem very happy with himself.  Maybe it was a biased opinion, given that I only spent a tiny fraction of time with him.  My smile faded as pity welled up for him.

Shiloh wouldn't allow him the chance to find any sort of cure for depression.  That might've explained part of why he went back.

"I can't keep you here against your will."  Mom told him.  She'd taken to crossing her arms.  "But you can stay here, Samuel.

Your mother had family off station back on Mars.  You could look for them or-"

"I've got family."  He grunted.  He'd grabbed his clothes.  "So no thanks.  I'm going home.  To where machines don't rule."

"Hey." I found myself saying.  "Machines don't rule here."

"Autogov isn't the only form of government here?"  He growled.  "Where you people kneel to the machines and forsake your


So I slapped him.

She slapped me.  I deserved that.  But the thought of my father seemed to make me irrational.
I shook my head.  After Kensha and her mother left- they had decided I wasn't in a conversational mood- I got dressed.  My clothes were in that locker.

So was the bag with the equipment.  They never bothered to even look at the bag.  They just set it in with my clothes.

The sight of it gave me a brief feeling of relief, one that disintegrated into guilt.  Kensha and her mother had been kind to me.  And I thought my only recourse was to insult them?  To be glad my terrorist tools had been recovered?

I was disgusted with myself.  Kensha had given me the only joyful moment I'd experienced since my mother's death.  I remembered the blue dress.  My father's voice.  Their argument that last night.

"Why would she do this to me?"  I thought aloud.  My father, that drunk, knew.  That had to be what they'd been arguing about.

My heart sagged.

Everything about my life was pathetic.

/Charon: If you're kind enough I could help you.

I jumped at that.  The scroll of text surprised me.  "Uh... No thanks."

/Charon: Kid.  Please, don't get all pretentious on me.

I shook my head.  This had to be yet another Machine trying to trick me.  "Leave me alone.  I don't need any machine's help."

/Charon: Your mother had no problems with AI you know.  Also: I don't call you animal or human, so how polite do you think 'machine' is?

I blinked.  "Uh, why does that matter?"

/Charon: Kid, I'd shake my head if I could.  But I'm going to insist on helping you.

"How could you help me?"  I asked.

/Charon:  well, I could provide you with a fairly quick means back home.  Walking might take you awhile.

"Oh."  I thought about it.  "What do you get out of this?"

/Charon: Maybe I want to manipulate you into helping me?  Or perhaps, I feel charitable.

"I can do fine on my own."  I affirmed.

/Charon: This might change your mind: Kensha.

An image of Kensha and I in our dream scrolled into my vision.  I never even realized you could send images and not just texts.

Charon continued on.  /Charon: Of course Kensha had no clue that I could hack into that dream.

"What do you want?" I kept my voice quiet.

/Charon: Kid.  You need a Psych.

I closed my eyes.  Whatever Charon was, he was being persistent about it.  I made my way out of the medunit, slinging my bag over my shoulder.  "I'm leaving."

Charon didn't give up.  He sent me a bit of audio next, a whistle.

"How are- is there a limit to what you can text or something?"

/Charon: Ok, you need to wrap your head around the concept that maybe, just maybe, machines have feelings.  And you've been a rude asshat to every machine you've walked into.

I kept walking down the street.  I had no idea how to get out of Roosevelt or even to the right direction toward Shiloh.  But I started to look at things on my augments.  I went through them, different apps and things that could help me.

/Charon: But I'm worried about your father.  Please let me help you.

I closed my eyes.  Of course that would get me.  I'm too stupid to say no to that.  "Whatever.  I... Whatever.  Get me back to Shiloh."

My defeated tone seemed to throw Charon off.

"Hey machine, you hear me?"

/Charon: Sorry, that seemed... easy.

I didn't respond immediately.  "I'm not very good at being a soldier.  My father is a drunk fool.  My mother was the good one.

I wish I could be worthy of her.  But that isn't going to happen."

/Charon: That's a little harsh.

"Truth often is harsh."  I said.  I felt the pit of my stomach hurt.  My eyes stung.  "Where is this ride?"


Suzanne clung tight to me as we soared through the air of Nightland.  It felt different than the last time I'd been with the drone.  It for one had seemed happy to see me.  That had thrown me for a loop, until Charon corrected me.

/Charon: She's happy to see me, not you.

That's how he explained it to me.

"Thanks I guess."  A part of me felt eembarrassedto be carried like this.  But as long as the town didn't see me, I could live with it.  I felt ashamed.  I wished I could've been a little excited by that trip.  It just made me sick, tired and even more ashamed of myself.

If anyone from Shiloh saw me, I'd deserve all I got for it.

/Charon: Why?

I tried to respond back.  But Charon couldn't hear me.  So I opted to text instead. /Samuel_Maenad: Why what?

Charon was quick to reply.  /Charon: Hold on.  Texts are too sloppy for this.

A second later, the two of were standing aloft a platform above Suzanne.  Well, another version of us.  I could see myself

still being carried by the police drone below.  "Uh..."

"This can get things done faster."  A tall, dark haired man stood there beside me.  He wore a long trenchcoat, that rippled in

the wind.  He offered a hand.  "This form is a lot easier than just texting.  Context gets lost in that."

"Uh..." I looked him up and down.  "Is that you machine?"

And I sounded stupid as I said it.

"Duh."  Charon lowered his offered hand.  He seemed disappointed.  "Well, I guess that would've been asking for too much


"Is this a dream?"  I asked, looking around.

"The metanet has layers.  On this one you can interact in a augmented reality, with dream elements, including out of body

experiences."  Charon waved a hand.  "You mind if I get back to my point?"

I shrugged.  "Whatever.  I don't really have a choice in all this."

"That self-deprecation aside, I'm asking 'Why'.  Why do you believe machines are evil or want power or even have it?"  Charon

waved his hands around them.  Pine trees wizzed by, making it seem as though his hands were weaving through the trees.

"You've taken over."  I said, as though it were obvious.

"Your mother didn't believe that."  Charon said.  He pointed at the sky.  "Just because that sky looks blue doesn't mean it is

blue.  Why do you think that?"

"Autogov is rule by machines."

"Is it?"  Charon asked.  "Or have you been raised ignorant of it?  Has your ignorance combined with something else to drive you to pursue it?"

"Shiloh was founded so humans could walk free of technology."  I replied.  "Shiloh exists so we can prove we don't need machines to live."

"Ah.  Ada Malkav."  Charon nodded.  "Have you ever read the writings of Hannah Maenad?"

I stopped.  Charon smiled at me.  "You didn't know that your own mother wrote refutations of Ada's work?  That she journeyed to Shiloh out of a humanitarian urge?"

"How..."  I shook my head.  "She wrote?"

"Well."  Charon sent me a series of files.  "She used Shiloh for her studies.  A main fear of hers was that her own son could fall into the same cult as the rest of the town."

"Shiloh isn't a cult.  Its... its the truth."  My own words sounded hollow to me.  "I've read or heard the stories.  Humanity's ancestors warned us.  We are ready to push back autogov."

"If autogov wanted to take over Shiloh, why hasn't it done so already?"  Charon asked.  "Think about it."

"It- its a infection...  I mean..." The thoughts were seeping in.  I started to repeat those doubts over and over.

"And what stories are you talking about?"  Charon cocked an eyebrow.  "Fears of people from a forgotten age?"

"Um... there are plenty.  Lots of old holos.  Books and stories like Dune or Terminator."  I tried to rack my brain for more.

Somehow I was drawing a blank as doubts were stacking in my mind.

"Have you ever read Dune?"  Charon asked.  "Thinking machines were a plot device in that novel.  The true story was a warning about the nature of heroes, how you must tread carefully where prophecy, faith and heroes intersect.  It takes the traditional view of the hero and the individual as the arbiter of change and shows the price with that."

I blinked.  "Uh.  Ok.  Maybe I need to catch up on my reading then.  But... That misses the point.  I mean, you can say anything you want.  Why should I believe anything you have to say?"

Charon laughed.  He shook his head.  "That's irrational, Sam."

"What?"  I was confused by this.

Charon make a singular point that would echo in my mind for awhile.  "You can't prove a negative.  All I can do is affirm certainties, I can't prove am not trying to harm you.  But that is what makes us persons.  Trust is a leap of faith, something we cannot always explain.  We have to assume at some level that other persons can be trusted."

I thought about that.  I felt more like an idiot.  "How do you know so much about my mother?"

"Sometimes people earn trust.  And sometimes they feel indebted to old friends, even when they are gone."  Charon replied, his face in a sidelong grin.

We'd arrived outside Shiloh.  I prepared myself as Suzanne left me there.  Charon vanished.  Time to go home.  I tried not to think about it.

Next Part (11)