Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 7

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"Nothing unreal exists- unless you've seen it on the Metanet."
Weir the Gonzo
Interviews With Ada Malkav

So we entered the shining city of Roosevelt.  My doubts continued to creep in.  I beat them down.

Flabbergasted wouldn't be too strong of a word for how it felt to walk into Roosevelt for the first time.  Even Augustine took pause here and there.  Roosevelt was so different than Shiloh.

I certainly didn't say any of it in front of Augustine or Charles.  The city's shimmering holos, gardens and strange people distracted me from Augustine's confrontation.  The people in Roosevelt didn't talk.  They nodded or waved their arms, as if interacting with invisible forces.  Those that did talk sometimes spoke too softly.

Others talked to spirits.  At least, that's how they would address their conversations.

"Spirit, do you have the time?"  I heard one person say.  She'd had glowing red hair and vibrant scarlet skin.

That was one person I saw, but the variety of humans staggered me.  Drones would fly by above us, but I saw almost no other thinking machines.  Animals scurried about here and there.

"C'mon."  Augustine said, pulling out the old map he'd written down.  "We need to get a higher vantage point."

I nodded.

Charles seemed just as distracted as me.  After all, it's one thing to be told all about how these people lived.  But other than their occasional strangeness they seemed, well, like people.  Just more of them.  Just more different hues.   The people surprised me.  They looked like normal people.  They didn't look like slaves or servants.

"Don't get distracted."  Augustine reminded us.  "The machines have worked hard to make this cage look appealing remember?"

"Yeah."  Charles agreed.  But like me, we watched tiny glowing drones flitter about like tiny fairies in a nearby rose garden.

"Do you guys hear that?"  I absently said as I tried to focus on it.  "It's beautiful."

"Hear what?"

I moved closer toward the music in my hears.  It didn't get louder.  But more things joined it.  Words started to scroll all around me.  Hundreds of words flew by me, too fast for me to comprehend.

"I... What?"  I tried to concentrate on the words flying by my vision.  It was like they were in my eye.

Augustine glared at me.  He grabbed me by the collar and shook me.  "Sam.  What the fek is wrong with you?"

Charles grabbed Augustine's arm.  "Whoa.  I don't know if he can hear us, Aug."

I could.  But there was so much going on.  My head was starting to ache from all the stimuli.  It was noise, verbal, mental and visual noise.  I couldn't turn it off.

"My head... Can't you see..."  I stammered.  Behind us I saw new shapes appearing all over the place.  A massive shape flew in the sky.  Angels flew around us.  Fire hung in the air.  So many things.

"See what?"  Augustine gritted his teeth.  "All I see is that you are your father's son."

That was the fly that broke the camel's back.  I head butted Augustine in his smug mouth.  He clutched at his face, stumbling back.

"Can't... Think."  I gasped.  My headache was getting more severe.

Charles's eyes widened.

Augustine kicked at my feet, trying to knock me over.  I dropped down on him instead.  I was trying to drive my elbow into him.

He rolled.  I felt something in my arm crunch as Augustine yanked down on my elbow, bending it wrong way.  Charles was stammering, pointing at something above us.

I couldn't pay attention any more.  My head throbbed.  So many things.  So many words and images and things just running through my head.

"You oging fekker."  Augustine spat.  He took out a screwdriver from my bag.  He held it like a man ready to skin a deer.

"Help."  I moaned.  "Charles-"

But Charles had already ran.  Above us, a police drove descended.  It interposed itself between Augustine and myself.

Augustine stared at the drone for a moment, blood dripping from his nose.  He ran, the screwdriver still in hand as he did.

My mind stung as sirens added to the ruckus.  I couldn't stand up.  My arm hurt.

Then time passed.  I think.  I don't remember how I got out of there.  When I next opened my eyes, I felt blankets over me.  My head still thrummed, but the ruckus was gone.  No words streamed.  No bizarre dream flickerings.

What happened?  I had trouble focusing my eyes.  Everything felt like a blur.

Then words scrolled across my vision:

Update Complete


/Kensha_Bodhi: Right now, you will only be getting texts unless you boot up the oneirostech app.

"Uh, what?"  I tried to open my eyes.  They didn't budge.  Fek, I couldn't feel my body either.

/Kensha_Bodhi: Its simple, really.  You can't send texts without booting up the right either, so...

/Kensha_Bodhi: Yeah.  I have no idea if you can see these or not.

"How do I..."  Then things started to pop up in my vision.  I sensed a series of applications.  It was like my head had suddenly become a holo.  "Oh.  What the fek did you people do to me?"

I scrolled through apps, trying to remember the one the text had sent.

/Kensha_Bodhi: You know, I feel guilty for all of this.

Ok.  I wondered if this could be someone who could help.  I weighed my options.  I could remain in this weird limbo mode.  Keep my mouth shut, and send the message to these people I was a solid, loyal member of Shiloh.

But what if I was in a coma?  My body was alive, but the only way to talk to me was by some sort of tech?  They might be trying to help me help myself.  Then I realized that being trapped in my own mind for however long without any sort of communication would be very, very lonely.  Whoever this was, he or she said they felt guilty.  I needed answers.

/Sam_Maenad: Ohow doesh thif thingk work

I had trouble getting the characters to register through my head.  There was a keyboard, but it wasn't where I thought it was.  I concentrated a bit more and tried again.

/Sam_Maenad: What?  I think I got this text thing to work.  Can you see me?

I waited for a bit for a response.

/Kensha_Bodhi: Zhe lives!

I had no idea what that meant.  Instead, I tried to focus on the app that he or she had mentioned before.

/Sam_Maenad: Ok.  I'm trying to boot up that program you sent me.  Oneirowhatsit.

/Kensha_Bodhi: Oneirostech.  No worries, it'll make things easier.

Then my eyes opened.

So Charon succeeded.  He found Samuel Maenad.  Except for one, tinsy little detail.  Samuel had been in Roosevelt.  Zhe'd been walking around downtown with two others when Charon activated zhis augments.

"Wait." I said when Charon had told me.  "Zhe's unconscious?"

/Charon: Its not my fault!

I folded my arms.  "Charon, you woke up his augments while he was walking downtown?  The noise down there is deafening if you don't have any filters."

/Charon: Its not my fault!

I tried to stifle my smile.

/Bodhisattva House: Charon.  Stop saying that!

/Charon: Er...

I laughed out loud.  After a moment of giggles, I stopped myself to ask Charon a question.  "Is zhe going to be okay?"

/Charon: IDK.  He needs to learn how to make a filter.  I'm trying to get a psych assigned to him, but so far...

"He's on bedrest then?"  I supplied.

/Charon: More or less.

Ah.  I realized that I needed to help him out.  This was my fault after all.  Charon and Bodhisattva might... well, they might not quite agree with my thoughts on how to help Samuel out.  Zhe was a unknown to me, I didn't even have a idea of who zhe thought zhe was.  Or he.  Or she.

So I sent Samuel a text containing the oneirostech app.  Then I started to send more texts, hoping that zhe might be able to think their way around the UI of zher unconscious.

"What the..."  I was in the forest again.  I could smell the pines.

My bare feet could feel the decaying needles beneath them.  I could smell it.  But it was eerily quiet.  It felt off.

"Sorry, this is kinda basic."  The girl's voice made me jump.  She seemed to pop in from nowhere, right in front of me.  I nearly fell over.  "Hi.  I'm Kensha- Oh.  Oops."

Blushing, I realized what she'd been talking about.  I stumbled to my feet and dove behind a nearby tree.  Naked.  I tried to control my breathing.

"What?"  It was the only thing I could think of.  Some genius I turn out to be, eh?

The girl poked her head around the tree to look at me.  "Sorry about that.  A little happens with these things, you know?  Anyway, my name is Kensha."

She looked to be my age.  Kensha had silver and green hair.  Her eyes were a deep red, reflecting her pale ivory skin.  She was clad head to toe in chainmail.  A green tunic covered it, making it look more like a dress made of steel rings and cloth.  Hooded around her head was a silver silken cloth.  Kensha's eyes had a feel to them I couldn't quite place- it reminded me of holos of my mother, a sort of concern mixed with sympathy I wasn't quite used to.

"Uh... Hi."  I tried to keep the tree between myself and her.

"Its Samuel or Sam?"  She asked.  Her bubbly smile threw me off.

"My arm isn't..."  I thought back to the fight I had with Augustine.  "I just realized I can't feel that my arm is broken."

Kensha shrugged.  She pulled out a scepter made of gold and silver.  It shimmered with a greenish light.  "This is a dream."

"A dream?"  I thought back to my past couple of days.  "Ok, that makes a sort of sense.  I mean, Augustine had been acting very strange-"

"Sorry!"  Kensha smacked her forehead.  "I need to explain it more!  Um..."

She waved the scepter.  The tree popped out of existence.  I jumped back, trying to cover myself.

Kensha rolled her eyes.  "Really?  Have you bothered to look down?"

I gazed down at myself.  I had clothes, my own clothes.  The ones I had been wearing before.  "Weird."

Samuel stared with wonder at zhis clothes.  IDK, it was adorable.

I don't mean to demean Sam, but it was amazing.  It looked like magic to zhim.  I couldn't help but smile.  I loved this part of dreams, sharing them with others.  And here was a audience who never knew this was possible.  It was miraculous.

Samuel Maenad hadn't known how to manipulate his dream-image.  So I took in the full view of this guy I'd been making big decisions for.  He did look my age.  But he stood at the same height as my dream-image, unfair because I made my dream-self look more tall than me.  His dirty blond hair had been cut very short.  He had a bit of stubble- his clothes looked second-hand, things had seen better days.

"So.  First thing I'm going to tell you."  I said, my tone very serious.  "You can totally change how you look.  Kewl huh?"

Samuel glance down at himself.  Then he looked up at me, his eyes confused.  "I... what do you people want with me?"

That took me back.  I let my scepter drop.  "Oh.  Right.  That."

"What do you mean, that?"  Samuel gave me a even more confused look.  His eyes were going to fall out at the rate I was going.

"Well..." I then explained everything to him.

I didn't understand a single word she said at first.  I mean, I thought I had a handle on talking or something like it.  Kensha talked fairly fast.  After she was done, I tried to respond intelligently.

"I... Could you try speaking slowly?"

She blinked at me.  "What?"

"I didn't understand a word of that."  I sighed.  "I mean, I get it.  I broke the rules or something.  Finish with the punishing."

"Uh... Um..." She closed her eyes.  "You aren't in trouble.  Or at least, that's what I've been told anyway.  You..."

Kensha sighed.

"Samuel, I shouldn't have done this I guess."  She paused, biting her lower lip.

"Done what?"  I crossed my arms.  "I mean, this is a weird interrogation."

"Interrogation?"  Kensha shook her head.  "Ok.  I really am starting to get confused here.  This... this whole conversation is kinda-sorta on the down low."

"Down low?"

How do I explain this to him?

"Nobody else knows, ok?"  I felt my dream image shrink a bit as I admitted that.  "You fell unconscious because of me.  I- I couldn't just wait for you to recover.  I had to talk to you.  I had to find a way to make it up to you."

Samuel looked around.  "You decided to talk to make up a dream in order to talk to me?  How did you manage to get... I mean..."

"That's the other thing."  I told him.  "You were augmented as a infant.  No one else in your town knows that.  We needed to activate you... so we could find you and try to... um... this is coming out wrong."

Samuel looked down.  He tried to avert my eyes.  "I... uh... Kensha right?"

I nodded.

He pointed at a nearby mountain in the distance.  "Whats the top of that mountain like?"

"Oh."  I turned.  "No idea.  I sort of made half this up-"

"That's how I feel right now.  You're telling me about a mountain way over the distance I can only see."  He let out a deep breath.  "I'm confused, and I think you're right about the augments.  My head hurt so much.  I saw and heard and sensed so many things.  You people live with all that noise?  In your skulls?"

I shrugged.  "We develop filters to block most of it.  Cha- I mean, we thought you wouldn't be near so much noise to begin with."

"Yeah."  Samuel sat down on the ground.  "This forest reminds me of Shiloh."

"The..." I found myself rambling in the dead space of the conversation.  "Oneirostech uses old memories and subconscious bits and pieces to fill out details for things."

He nodded.  "Um... You'd get in trouble for all this?"

I paused.  "I didn't think about that."

Samuel laughed.  It was a great laugh.  The kind one could make a ringtone off of.

So we laughed for awhile.  I liked Kensha.  She was a honest person.  And she was concerned for me, despite never having known me.

"So you can just enter dreams?  And play around with them?"  I asked.  The thought excited me like none before.

Hey.  I know, I came into Roosevelt as a teen terrorist.  But Kensha had opened a option I had never thought I could do.  Here was a chance to indulge my own passion.  In Shiloh, my talent for art was appreciated, but never seen as beneficial to the town.  Yes I could draw.  Would that drawing increase the harvest?  That painting make more food?  Butcher more meat?

Here was a chance to act on it.  To be able to use my imagination.  Without my father to smash it as useless.  Without a town that would tell me to act otherwise.

"Of course."  Kensha waved the scepter around herself.  The would bended and twisted around us.  Pine trees changed.  We weren't in a forest anymore.  We stood in a vast field of wheat.  "Its lucid dreaming, but with some conscious control."

"Oh wow."  I said.  It was easier then to forget about Shiloh and my mother's legacy.  To let everything of the past slip into shadow.

"Like this?"  I asked her.

I blinked as Samuel's clothes changed.  They became brand new, sparkling with purple energy.  His hair lengthened.  I noted that his waist thinned a bit.  He smiled as his dream-image changed.

"Yeah.  Like that."  I nodded.  He'd adapted quick to the idea.

"I've never had a chance to indulge art."  He told me, blushing.  "Shiloh... Shiloh doesn't need art.  Not anything wasteful I guess."

I crossed my arms.  I disagreed, but I saw no reason to derail the conversation.

"So."  I asked.  "Now you've got a chance to mess with it.  You can also leave this dream too.  There is a way to wake up too."

"Does time flow different here?  Like other dreams?"  He asked me.

"More or less."  I said, echoing Charon's favorite way of saying 'maybe.'

"I... Thank you Kensha."  Samuel looked at the landscape around us.  "This could be fun."

"Yeah."  I paused.  "But I don't want to rush you or anything.  You've got my contact info.  If you need anything, just ask."

Samuel nodded.  "Yeah.  No rushing..."

I tried to think of the way out.  To call a door and step out of the dream.  But I hesitated.

I reached out a hand to her.  "Kensha wait."

She looked up at me, blushing again.  She seemed to shrink a little, embarrassed.

I tried to phrase it the right way.  "Um... want to play?"

Kensha smiled, and instead of leaving, said, "Yes.  Yes I do."

/Nightland Central Archives:
Out of the Long Night, the Old Nations retained their power.  The most powerful polities on Earth, they extended control throughout the System.  At the end of the Unification War, they began a new era, including a change to the new dating system.  The year the Treaty of Unification was ratified become the first year of the United Earth.

That wasn't true.  Earth was united in name.  The Old Nations retained their power, creating a puppet facade for a united earth government.  But war had become outlawed on Earth, and a political shift began.

On Mars and other colonies, Autogov emerged.  The first independent colonies won their independence through manipulation of the same politics that kept the Old Nations in power.

Adding to this had been the practice of mass deportation of the poor, transhuman and artificial off Earth.  As Earth's population dwindled, colonies became more and more brazen.  These deported individuals flocked to autogov colonies.  Earth's elite tried to mimic autogov methods.

The economic superior methods of autogov would undo the elite's grip on power.  There was a last attempt by the Old Nations to revive their power.  Their last secrets were leaked onto the Metanet, including secrets pertaining to classified faster than light experiments.

The last of the elite from all of the Old Nations left Earth, after most of their possession had been confiscated and their wealth eliminated.  As autogov finally came to Earth, the vestiges of bygone eras of moneyed individuals faded.  To which stars they went, and why they choose to never leave a clue how to reach them, remains unknown.