Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 11

Previous (10)

"Justice is about balance.  For the state, that balance is always tilted in its own favor.  That is an imbalance we should strive to correct."
Catherine 97801A
Ethics of Autogov

CHARON
I let the kid wander away.  But I kept an ear open.  It technically wasn't a violation of his rights.

The entire venture out here had been a stretch of concept to begin with.  Roosevelt had ordered me not to survey Shiloh.  However, if I had been aiding Samuel Maenad, I'd have plausible cause to be observing anything around Sam.  Including Shiloh, should he be there.

Yeah.  I violated the spirit of what Roosevelt had said.  Oh well.

Samuel walked up the hill to his family's home.  I'd avoided mentioning it earlier. The house was a pile of ashes now.  Nothing remained that looked like a home.

The kid paused for a bit.  I presumed it was because he realized how bad things had gotten.  Then the kid decided to dig himself into deeper trouble.

He walked to the green big house that was Gaius Malkav's home.  Samuel shook his head the entire time.  It was like he was trying to make a decision of some kind or another.

SAMUEL
I had to knock four times before someone answered.  The door opened on into a thin slit.  I saw a blue eye through that slit.

It was pretty, and blonde hair dangled around it.  Amelia.  She looked shocked to see me.  "Sam!?"

"Yeah."  This was going to be awkward. I didn't want to believe anything that Charon or the rest of them had said.  But no one in Shiloh could really know about my augments.  "Amelia.  I'm trying to find my father.  The house is..."

Amelia was breathing quick.  Her eyes were wide.  She looked like a cornered mouse.

"Amelia what's wrong?"

"Don't hurt me."  She stammered.  "Please.  We don't want any machines here.  Just... Please.  Leave us be."

I blinked.  "Amelia its me.  Samuel.  Do you know anything about where my father is?"

Then Amelia started to weep.  In between her sobs I tried to calm her down.  But then my doubts began to seep in.

She whispered in a very hushed tone.  "I'm sorry, Sam."

I couldn't fathom it.  My gut stung.  Something was wrong here.  This was my hometown town, gorram it.  For fek sake, everyone knew each other in Shiloh.  I'd grown up with Amelia.  I had become friends with Augustine out of a urge to be closer to her, but knew the town would frown on me having her as a friend without being friends with Augustine first.

Charles and Augustine must've come back.  I dropped the bag on the porch.  Everyone in town was going to like this, afraid of me?

Before Amelia could close the door on me, I put my foot in it.  "Amy please, at least tell me where my father is.  He might be a drunk, useless bastard, but he's the only family I've got left."

Except for those Dr. Bodhi had told me about.  But this didn't have to do with blood or relations.  I had to know my father was at least alive.  The thought of one other person that had known my mother disappearing frightened me more than anything else.  He'd made my life miserable ever since she'd gone.  But he'd known her.  And she'd seen something in him.

Amelia shook her head.

"Sam... please."  She looked behind her.  "Just go.  I can..."

Then there came the stomping.  This was the point where I should've left.  I had the equipment with me, I could offer it as a some sort of bargaining chip maybe.  The idea of Gaius acting like Amelia had to me, well, that was something I couldn't face.  I wanted to crawl away.  Flee.  I needed to get out of there.

I tripped over myself as I tried to get off the porch.  That's when things first started to go sideways.

Something hauled me up.  I felt my body flailing as a foot kicked into my gut.  Gaius's voice was in the background.  Pain made me curl.  I tried to cover my hands, my head.  Something whammed into me.

Over and over and over.

The piece of wood or whatever it was just kept hitting me.  Skin broke open.  My scalp became red hot.  Crunch.  Pop.  Pain radiated at me.  It felt like flashes of bright white.

It must've been Augustine.  It had to have been him, finishing the fight we started in Roosevelt.  At any moment I expected Gaius to stop him.  To intervene.  To bring back his wayward soldier.

"Do you understand?"  The voice said again.  This time I comprehended what it had been saying.  The flashes of pain had seemed louder than the words.

"What?"  Blood tumbled out of my mouth.  My lips were split open, dripping blood.

There was a ripping sound.  My head lolled upward.  Gaius stood over me, a bloody chunk of firewood in one hand.  My shirt had ripped into tatters as he pulled my head up.

"Boy." He shook me.  Each word he spoke sounded like a razorblade.  They cut into my flesh, taking a bit of me with each slice.  "You live because I believed in you.  But you aren't one of us.  You were never one of us.  Do you understand?"

More coppery liquid flew out as I tried to say yes.  Gaius didn't care.  He didn't.  He just shook me.

"You are the foul spawn of a woman who mocked our community.  But you live because humans are merciful.  You get that machine?"

Tears made me unable to see.  The older man's words stung.  He'd given me a place in Shiloh.  It didn't make me happy.  Nothing did, but at least it was a place.  I could do something.  I had somewhere where I could be a part of the community.

"Do you understand?!"  Gaius screamed.  I tried to crawl away.  One of my arms wasn't working.

Some augment or something had started up a graphic.  My skeleton.  Red flashed over ten or eleven breaks.  The app was giving off some sort of warning.

"I understand!"  More blood came out as I spoke.  "Gaius!  Ple-ease!  I..."

"Did I say you could speak, machine?"  Gaius spat on me.  I could hear others around us.  "Get up!"

That was a monumental struggle.  My left leg would hold too much weight, but despite its breaks I could use it.  My right arm clutched the bag.  "Gaius- my father.  I need to find him-"

Gaius held up the chunk of red-flicked wood.  He pointed it at my head.  "This is a town of peace.  Machines aren't welcome here.  We walk free here."

"Walk Free!  Walk Free!  Walk Free!"

Then everyone I had grown up with began to chant.  Everyone I had ever known shouted the same phrase over and over.  I used to think of it as a wondrous phrase, something that gave me meaning in my darkest moments.  My heart thundered in my chest.  Why did this have to happen this way?  What did I do?

I stumbled.  I fell repeated.  I didn't stop.  My legs flailed.  I kept going.  I fled as hard as I could.

I landed on my side, it burning.  It hadn't been far from Gaius.  At some point I screamed.

Then things went black.

CHARON

I didn't understand.  /Charon: @Suzanne: Did everything just go black?  Like, blank?

No response.  Uh-oh.

/Charon: @Suzanne: Can you hear me?

Time to take a bit of a risk.  /Charon: @Samule_Maenad: Sam.  Is everything alright?

Oh great.  I tried to access other kinds of communications with Suzanne or Samuel Maenad.  None of them worked.

Last I had seen, Samuel had been walking up to the Malkav house.  That was it.  He walked up to the green house, then wham.  No more signal.

The error made no sense.  Something had to be blocking the signal.  But there wasn't anything that could block.  Shiloh had no tech.

/Kensha_Bodhi: @Charon: Hey.  You available tonight for continuing the dream?

That's the weird thing about being a AI like me.  Everything is multitasking.  /Charon: Sure.  Same time as usual?

/Kensha_Bodhi: Of course.

I'd have to go off for a bit.  I was worried, now that Suzanne had gone offline as well.  Maybe she had entered a dead spot.  Or maybe the same thing that had affected that water station had gotten her.  Or it could be nothing, just my built-in paranoid going wild.

Guess I just needed to wait then.

SAMUEL

It smelled like pine needles.

SYSREPAIR ENGAGED.

Sysrepair?  I smelled pine needles.  Where the heck did 'sysrepair' fall into that?

ADRENALINE RELEASED.  SYSREPAIR TEMPORARY PATCHED FOLLOWING SUBSYSTEMS: Left Calf, Third Rib, Right Elbow.  
REKNITTING FINISHED.

My body tingled.  I tried to lift my head.  It swam with tingling itself.

I gazed down at myself.  I was lying in pile of detritus in the preserves.  A log or two were around me, but otherwise I was no where near Shiloh.  I remembered what had happened.

I stood up.  I winced, readying myself for pain.  Nothing.  Both legs felt warm, tingling and sore.  But the left one didn't feel broken anymore.

"Ok.  One pro in the Augments column."  I told myself.  "I... I..."

I couldn't say the words.  I didn't have a home anymore.  What tiny bit of worth I had was gone.  Sure, these augmentations let me walk.  But what use was I?

"Fek me.  Fek me, I should be dead."  I started to cry, the emotions bubbling out of me.  "I... Gaius doesn't need me.  The worthless fekked up spawn of a drunk.  I'm useless."

If I had managed to have succeeded at our mission, it would've been different.  I knew it could've.  But I couldn't do that well.  I let the negative emotions flow over me.  I deserved it afterall.

By being alive I'd betrayed the only thing I had wanted to live for.  I was a machine.  Bionics and augmentations made me to not be human.

I couldn't blame Gaius for this.  I deserved it.  Each moment I was alive, it just made things worse.  I couldn't join the machines.  I wasn't a monster.  Worse, they would change me into whatever they wanted.  Entities like Charon had already manipulated me so far.

And I could never go back into Shiloh.  I'd betrayed them.  Or else Gaius wouldn't have sent me off.  He knew something about this, he knew the danger I had posed.

There was only one logical path for me.  There was only one thing I needed to do.

I still had the equipment bag.  It had a series of tiny tools in it.  None of those would work.  They'd harm me, but they couldn't do the job.

I thought about it.  I looked up.  Yeah.  I could go to the bridge.  There was a bridge that overlooked a waterfall not far from this side of town.  It was a steep fall, something we'd always been warned against as children.  Now it seemed like a swan song.  A release from my damned existence.

I started the slow walk feeling determined to finally end the one thing that had always gnawed at me.  My life.

Central Nightland Archives: Nightland.Wiki.Archives/Nightland_Polities/Township_of_Shiloh

Shiloh is a township in Roosevelt Sector on the Southern Arm of the Nightland Orbital Colony.  Founded almost a hundred and twenty years ago, Shiloh has remained tiny in population.  Population statistics for Shiloh remain obscure, as the Shiloh agreement with Autogov prevent any sort of Machine observation of the township.  Shiloh is located near a creek in the Wildlife Preserves west of Roosevelt.

Founding

Shiloh was founded by Ada Malkav.  She used her notable Metanet presence and various works to cultivate a following that settled Shiloh for the express purpose of creating a town outside of any machine's control.  Malkav was regarded throughout Nightland as a conspiracy theorist and a extremist.  Her seminal work, "To Walk Free" advocates a blend of objectivism, humanism and anti-transhumanism that conflicts with what most in Nightland regarded as fine values.

Education & Utilities

Unlike other settlements in Nightland, Shiloh lacks most amenities.  It farms its own food, maintains its own holo data net, organizes its own utility functions and education services.  Little is known or regarded on these services, although contact with members of the township suggest that they are subpar.  The last notable medical personnel of the town was Hannah Maenad, who died in a fire that could've been prevented through any number of autogov policies.

Politics

After the death of Hannah Maenad, her lead as Mayor led to Shiloh closing itself off more and more.  The current mayor is Gaius Malkav, who unlike Maenad, refuses any aid sent to the township.  Politically, almost all of the town believes in the same anti-transhuman, anti-A.I. politics as its founder.  Hopes remain strong that the township may one day at least consider joining autogov in a greater capacity.

Yearly Festival: "The Hunt"
Since its founding, Shiloh has maintain a yearly festival devoted to hunting game in the nearby wildlife preserves.  A series of floating holocameras watch the proceedings, sending them to holoprojections in a arena at the center of Shiloh.  This is the only major event that draws outsiders to the township.  Over the last ten years, however, the Hunt has shrunken.  It has become less and less of its former self.

Next Part (12)