Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 2

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"Machine shall not rule over human.  In that way is folly.  Keep the scepter of the leviathan affixed to flesh, beware the crimes of the machine.  This is the oldest wisdom we still have."

Of Tools And Men
Ada Kelly Malkov


The drone carried me back to my house in Shiloh.  The tiny town got a good glare at me as I was taken home.  I really hoped my father wasn't home.  Last thing I needed was that old drunk to try to be moral at me.

"Here you are."  The drone told me.

My house stood before us.  People always explained the origins of this house to me, how my mother and father had built it.  How before the fire it had been meant to also be a hospice too.  My mother, before her death, had intended it to be a place where she could help everyone in shiloh.  My father put boards up to cover some of the scars.  But overall, the green painted structure looked like it had a horrible disease.  The porch still stank, covered in empty bottles.  The yard was overgrown with tumbleweeds.  It was on the end of the street, at the top of a hill overlooking all of Shiloh.

I decided to be stalwart.  That meant keeping my mouth shut.  Or something like that.  The machine
stared at me for a moment.  Then it moved to the door and knocked.

I let out a slow breath.  Maybe my father wasn't home.  Maybe I'd luck out on the embarassment lottery.

Maybe my jabai of a fekkup of a father wouldn't be home.

The machine knocked a second time.  It continued to stand there.  A part of me almost thought it was
waiting patiently.  But it was a machine, right?  They don't wait.  They just fulfill programming or

After more awkward waiting, it started to rain.  I grunted at that.  My legs were getting stiff just
standing here.  I decided I'd try to say something.  Maybe the Machine just needed some sort of

Then the front door banged open.  My father, his eyes red and bleary stood there.  Hunched over with a thick bramble of beard, my old man took a look at the drone.  Then he took a look at me, surprised.

"Sammy?  You aren't at... school?"  He looked back between the two of us.  Despite his words of concern, I knew the tone under his voice.  Irritation that his start of drinking had been interrupted.

"There wasn't any school today, dad."

"Your son was caught committing an act of vandalism at Water Station 42.  He gets a warning this time."

The drone paused for a moment, probably to give my father a chance to interject something too.

"Oh." My father looked down.  "Got it."

The machine moved away, leaving me with my father.  Before he could even start, I marched past him into our house.  I didn't want to even to deal with this right now.

My father grabbed my arm as I started to make my way to my room.  "Hey, Sammy.  Don't walk away from me boy."

"Let go of me."  I didn't want to look at him, he stank of booze.

"Just listen to me, son."

I turned and looked at my father's eyes.  They were blurry with tears.  He looked like he was struggling to say something.

"I know its been a hard ten years since we lost her.  You... you don't have to prove anything."  I stared at him.  I very much didn't want to say anything.  About how he rambled to me about how horrible it been.

"She'd do something about it.  That's what I've been doing.  You talk about how bad it is about these
machines all the time, but you never do anything about it."  I shook my head.  "My and the guys are
doing something against the Machines.  No body else in Shiloh is willing to do anything.  We're going to stop the Machines once and for all."

"Right."  My father shook his head.  "And trashing the old water station does that how?"

I didn't look at him.  Sure, now when he talked about it, it sounded really stupid.  But he wasn't
willing to go in for the cause like me.  That, and I started to regret the words I'd said.  They sounded
corny as fek.

"Your mother didn't like violence.  I've told you that.  She believed in a lot of things, but violence
was never one of them."

"We aren't being violent."

"If somebody was there, at that water station, would you've attack them?  If someone threatened you?  A man has to have some honor son.  Unlike those in the cities, we have honor out here.  You know that.  Don't be a fekkup."

I kept quiet.  I was more frustrated with him.  Talking down to me like I didn't have a clue.  That
boiled inside me.

We were in the living room.  My father never cleaned it, just leaving our shared history in it like a ancient, trashy shrine to my mother.  His worn, old sofa sat there.  The framed holo of my mother still flickering on the seat.  A thick bottle of some kind of spirits, probably whiskey, laid on the floor in front of it.  He'd been asleep when we'd arrived.

I decided to vent my own disappointments with him.  He wants to talk down to me?  Fine.  I could do the same.

"You think she'd approve of what you've done with your life?" I spat.

I didn't stay long enough to analyze his reaction.  I fled up to my room.  I don't what my father did.

He just stood there, probably looking at his feet like the loser he was.

When I got up to my room, I shut the door behind me.  Rain splattered on my window.  One wall had
peeling wallpaper, covering most of the burn marks.  There wasn't much else there, mainly my holo.  I had one or two old books my mother had left for me too.  Family antiques, really.  One was called 'Dune,' well the other had the title of 'Red Badge of Courage.'

To be honest I had never read them.  I wish I had more things in my room, but most of what had been mine was lost in the same fire that had taken a portion of the house.  I just used it for sleep.  I used the holo to sketch and draw ideas that came to me.  I didn't pay and real attention to my oodles of drawings.

I looked out my window, admiring the high vantage over the town below.

My eyes studied my town.  Shiloh.  Even under the vast domes and megastructures of Nightland, it still shone like a diamond in a thicket of thorn bushes.  At center of town is the old arena, where each year the town's biggest event, The Hunt[1] took place.  Spacers from around the system would come to see it.  I'd even met Dusters, Selenes and other humans from other rare places in the system come to be part if it.

Shiloh had no varmints or bots of its own.  That's in the town ordinances.  Others in the system were
like us, they didn't trust any sort of machine.  But in Nightland, Shiloh is pretty much alone. It been
settled in one of Blaine's old wild preserves, areas intended to recreate lost biomes from earth.  The
pine forests around Shiloh sat on hills formed from centuries of being left feral.  Shiloh took that
land.  We made the forest into a home, and we did it without any outside interference.

My town.  This was my town.

I still felt like I needed to prove myself as a part of this community.  I wanted acceptance.  I wanted Shiloh to see me as more than the burden left by my mother's death.

Dark covered part of the sky above.  The massive sky above was turning away from Sol.  Night was coming to its namesake.

I turned away from Shiloh and pulled out a holo.  I looked for the old stories. Tales from old earth, vids recorded back before holos.  Stories of life without machines.  They were about people free.  People that governed themselves.

[1] Footnotes: The Hunt: An Annual event for the town of Shiloh on the colony of Nightland.  Various hunters are observed hunting down animals of all sizes in the forests around of Shiloh.  A weeklong festival is associated with the event, and it provides major tourist attention from throughout the system.  There have long been concerns with the rights of the animals involved, but Shiloh as a colony has long been able to allow this event by only allowing the tranquilization of the prey involved.

I walked home from the school that day.  Suzanne had texted me back, confirming my consultation as positive.  The consultation system had been something I'd volunteered for.  Being a juror let one rack up energy credits toward more computer time.

I would use every second of time those credits would buy me.

"Kensha!"  I paused.  Something IRL.  I turned around, just in time to be tackled by Li.  She nearly knocked me over, making me grit my teeth in the process.  She hugged me tightly, her green skin feeling crisp and warm against mine.

"A little warning!"  I gasped.  "Fek girl, you trying to kill me with surprise?"

"You left before I finished my exam classes.  Did you let your tykes out early or what?"  Li smirked at me.

"Or maybe I didn't have mine run a quarter mile.  Seriously Li, you can just bring the plants to them."  I pulled away from my friend.  I'd forgotten about her.  Of course, we'd see each other later on the Net.  But still... IRL has its benefits.

We stepped onto the Loop.  It sealed behind us, efficient energy sending us full speed away from the academic level up into the residential modules.  Like most pods on the Loop, it was only big enough for the two of us.

"Genehacking also carries costs you know.  If you want to know it, you got be okay with paying the costs."  Li smiled.  "Besides, I wanted to talk to you about tonight.  You still are going to be running the Dream right?"

I smiled at her.  "Yeah.  I thought we'd continue from where we'd left off."

"Sweet.  My character is ready to totally kick the ass off that fekhole."  Li made a fake swing gesture with her arms.  "Child eater turned into charcoal."

"Gourmand."  I corrected.  "His entire order is dedicated to finding the right meal.  He just took it a little... far."

Li blanched.  "I can't believe you can think up this stuff!  And you still manage to find the computer time to research it and add more to the dreamspace."

"The world isn't mine, Li.  I just set up the stuff, you know."  I smiled, trying not to blush at the compliment.  Our little gaming group had taken to my fantasy game very well lately.  "I got the setting and all that from something real old on the Net."

"Its still very kewl."  Li leaned against a window.  "I mean, you create these great NPCs.  They feel real.  And you don't make it all boring fights and wars.  Other Dreamwrights just... I mean, they make it feel like your character doesn't matter."

"Yeah.  I got more ideas for your character too.  I had a question or two for you."

Li brightened.  Her green skin and dark red hair glistened in the lights as we moved upward.  "Really?"

Central Net Archives:;
Prior to the unification war, the system was settled by humans in two waves of Colonization.  The First Colonization began in -670 UE, lasting until -590 UE, when the major powers of Earth lost control and fell into a dark age.  The Second Colonization occurred more recently.  Beginning in -300 UE, it lasted until the invention of the artificial gravity field, around 10 UE.

During these periods, orbital colonies relied on centrifugal and advanced gene hacks for long term
survival.  The largest centrifugal colony was Nightland, even before it's fifth retrofit.

The First Colonization: The colonies of this period were forced to spend two or three centuries without any support from their sponsor nations.  As such, those that survived- on Mars and the Moon- developed unique solutions.  On Mars, those colonists used gene hacks to create the beginning of the culture and subspecies we now call Dusters.  On the moon, they used similar means, but eventually used cryogenics for most of their population.

Most of the others were lost.

The Second Colonization: Because it occurred after the end of the Long Night, the Second Colonization saw prominent new powers re-discovering these colonies.  Selenes were grateful about this change, thinking it a new and amazing change in their lives.  Martians would come to call themselves Dusters, and their culture resisted the migration of these new colonists.

The Second Colonization expanded further than the first hand.  Large-scale orbital colonies were established for the time.  Space elevators led to the foundations of the massive colony structure now known as the Ring.  The Second Colonization set the stage for the massive migration of humans after the Unification War.  It created foundations that later technologies would innovate on.

The Second Colonization helped to shape the face of the system.  As Earth would exile and deport more and more of its transhuman and poor citizens, the system would rely on the colonies established by the Second Colonization.

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