Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Xmas

I got a Nexus 7 as a present from my generous wife so I may be posting more frequently here.
Anyway, happy holidays to everyone except the spammer who has attempted to comment in excess of fifty times today - you can rot on hell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Komatiite


Komatiite (play /koʊˈmɑːtɪ.aɪt/)[1] is a type of ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock. Komatiites have low silicon, potassium and aluminium, and high to extremely high magnesium content. Komatiite was named for its type locality along the Komati River in South Africa. True komatiites are very rare and essentially restricted to rocks of Archaean age, with few Proterozoic or Phanerozoic komatiites known (although high-magnesian lamprophyres are known from the Mesozoic). This restriction in age is thought to be due to cooling of the mantle, which may have been up to 500 °C hotter during the early to middle Archaean (3.8 to 2.8 Ga). The early Earth had much higher heat production, due to the residual heat from planetary accretion, as well as the greater abundance of radioactive elements. Geographically, komatiites are restricted in distribution to the Archaean shield areas. Komatiites occur with other ultramafic and high-magnesian mafic volcanic rocks in Archaean greenstone belts. The youngest komatiites are from the island of Gorgona on the Caribbean oceanic plateau off the Pacific coast of Colombia.
Wikipedia

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Veil, The Blindfold of Thorns

My poem "The Veil, the Blindfold of Thorns" has just appeared in the August issue of Horrotica Magazine (link not safe for work).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Under the Lights

On an empty stage, under bright harsh lights
In a closed glass case, airless and sealed tight

I sit upright on a bare wooden chair
Telling myself I no longer care

The world is bleached, it's all knife-edged shadows
It tastes of ash and bitter smoke, burned rose

And I am under the light, on the stage
Sweating and squirming, lost in a deep rage

At what I have lost, at who I am now
And the lights blur, I tense up, I know how

I feel a different kind of grieving
A grief at what I am now losing

I'm naked under the lights, being watched
By millions of eyes and I know I am lost

Friday, June 01, 2012

Rigs I Have Worked On #12 - GSF Celtic Sea


Rig Name: GSF Celtic Sea
Rig Manager: Transocean Ltd.
Rig Owner: Transocean Ltd.
Competitive Rig: Yes
Rig Type: Semisub
Semisub Generation: 4
Rig Design: Friede & Goldman L-907 Enhanced Pacesetter
Rated Water Depth: 5,750 ft
Drilling Depth: 25,000 ft

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Poem #2

Oh fly, fly up to the sky Summer Bean
Fly up, fly back, tell me what you've seen

"I saw stars like snowflakes on black, black cloth
I saw two moons kissing, a comet like a moth
Meteors hissing across it all
Planets dancing as if at a ball"

Oh swim, swim into the sea Summer Bean
Swim down, swim back, tell me what you've seen

"I saw fish flicker in front of crinkly coral
I saw crabs scuttle, a ship in a bottle
Seaweed ripples in the heavy waves
Seahorses hide in deep, dark caves"

Oh dig, dig into the ground Summer Bean
Dig down, dig deep, tell me what you've seen

"I saw worms wiggle, beetles in the soil
I saw Molten rock bubbling, all on the boil
Glittering gold, blue black stone
I saw all this and then I went home."

Monday, May 07, 2012

Bubbles - Part 4

Anne had found that there was a point where the complexities of a plan and the events it tried to influence collapsed to a short lived node of potential. All that could be done was to hope for the go signal before the node evaporated and a secondary plan had to be used.
The go signal arrived two hours before the Earth viewing in 4Dome, the optimal time for plan one.

***

Over the years on standby in Cylinder3 John and Sarah accreted bits of personality like an old ship accreted barnacles. They interacted with their co-workers, a group of social misfits themselves on the verge of forcible personality surgery. They went out eating and drinking, went to gaming parlors loud with the clatter of steel balls and the shimmering noise of sub3Dome strings. Their monitors allowed this, approvingly watching shallow cover become deep. Potentially useful roots were put down in a disaffected community.
"Simon, Erica, we need your help."
"Sure, what do you need?"
Different grades of polluted water flowed past in clear diamond pipes. Black, gray, cross-mixed and re-mixed with water. Some sent through nano-beds to recover trace elements; some to ferment in bacteria rich tanks. Boring to operate but essential, even to a society that had the Jovian moons available to strip-mine.
"After shift, our place, OK?"
No-one knew where Erica and Steve came from. Best guess was 2Dome. Even more damningly, on the surface. Their piercings were too artfully placed, their tattoos too neat, their erogenous zone networks too reliable for a casual chop-shop.
Still, they were pleasant, interesting, generous (but not too generous) and never, ever late for a shift.
"The Cylinders are about to launch an attack on the Domes. We don't know the details but we need your help."
The carefully placid atmosphere (incense, quiet piano, dishes of cross-cultural food placed across the floor) suddenly curdled.
"Oh hell! You're spooks!"
"Yes we are. And we know all about you Ellen. Specifically I know that your parents of 16NorthDownstream1Dome have an arrest warrant out for non-payment of your parenting loan. Yes, all they want from you is your soulsphere.
"As for you, Simon of 126SouthDownstream2Dome, your parents don't even want that. When you die, and that will be soon if you don't do what we say, your sphere will be placed in public storage until your personality and skill-set are deemed useful. Good luck with that."

***

With an hour to go Anne wandered through the 4Dome plaza crowd triggering (by gesture, touch, eye contact) some of the far subDome religious she'd primed to riot at zero-hour. Her Thomas body did the same on the other side of the river.
The plazas by the river were full of the religious, their eyes filled with anticipation for the sanctified violence to come.

***

There was blood all over the floor, steaming in places as the self-cleaning elements overheated. Sarah and John were both in shock, their left tibias removed and replaced with tubes of medical nano. Erica and Simon could have allowed them to die but had been placed under a geas that demanded their survival. Once Sarah and Johns' condition improved their right tibias would be removed.

***

Configurations 3 and 5 were given by the Tessellation in their one and only broadcast.
Very rigidly defined layouts of pretty much anything would lock in place as long as the number of anythings were prime.
Three holes forming a particular triangle would be a very slow energy sink.
Five holes (again, orientation not distance mattered) would do nothing, or so it seemed.
Configuration research would have died here had not a bored researcher shone a powerful laser at a Configuration 5 hole considerably distant from the other four.
The beam shone out of thin air 10 meters away.
Wormhole creation came from this simple beginning and the investigation of Configurations was given huge resources.

***

Twenty minutes before activation Anne took herselves onto a train to 1Dome, the only Dome not part of the forthcoming attack and not coincidentally, the seat of Lunar government.
A short time later Anne was riding Thomas hard as zero approached, trying to time her orgasm for the moment the Kite arrived. She watched, deep in Ocean, at some sort of EM spectrum purist site.
The Earth was just over the horizon as she came, a Kite attack arriving a few seconds later.

***

Configuration 3 was so simple children could draw it in Configuration Theory classes. Gasps of astonishment and fear as three pen dots on a piece of paper locked into place with a characteristic twinkle.
Somehow the dots became _real_ in a way nothing else in the room was.
A simple score across one dot ended that worrying idea.
This time it was 5Council research that found the hidden prize.
Place a Configuration 3 in an EM field and it would produce a sphere of curdled space-time containing a copy of that field.
This sphere would expand with time, recording any changes in the ambient field.

***

At zero hour, the Earth, in all its pale glory was fully risen and a Kite riot was fully in session in 4Dome.
Anne's recruits put together their crude organic weapons and began to spray out clouds of neurotoxins.
The 4Dome assigned demon ran up and down streets, the average being up. As it proceeded it became less and less coherent, main Hole linked components forming a loose net picking up and sorting useful particles as it went. The last approach leading up the circum-Dome Band Street had only the council cubes at the top.

***

Anne gaspingly came. Sorting her complex response to the events she'd co-ordinated, Dome-Kite-Thomas-Dome-Kite-Thomas, she looked down at the damage she'd done to her twin.
She decided she organized the first two elements for the benefit of the third.
She left Thomas to heal and got back to work.

***

The demon threw 1/3rd of its non-Hole material into a fuel air explosive. The expanding bubble of explosive gas was accidentally ignited by 2Council4Dome lasers.
The resulting explosion was of near nuclear proportions but in the war between the demon and Defence2Council4Dome it was a distraction. Where the war was really taking place even the combatants were not sure.
In the Ocean Metaphor huge chucks of pink, rose and gray data were torn up by explosives dropped from a surface whose very existence was questionable.
Swarms of pure deconstructor nano flew upward to destroy the protective net below the dome.
A high speed carbon sequestration plague was released with the vague idea of somehow sucking up diamond dome support elements. Instead it latched onto the bodies in the plaza, producing a blood colored steam that inadequately covered what was happening within.
It was the deconstructor nano that finally forced defence2Council4Dome to request help.
The technology and use of the nano being used against them was well understood, as was the fact that, scaled up sufficiently, it gave results indistinguishable from the Earth. It was outlawed because the Ruin could not be re-enacted, even in miniature.
The psychological profile of the likely user was therefore highly discouraging.
The other Councils threw resources at 2 with 5 providing their still officially confidential Configuration7 stasis field team.
A silvered sphere appeared around 96% of the heavily dispersed demon. It was too little, too late.
Blown upwards from the conflict, and nearly invisible, 37% of the demon that contained Holes drifted up to, and adhered to, the dome. The mirror 37% Holes were rolling downhill as part of a 50cm ball of nano constructor acting as a matrix.
The ball rolled into a strategically located puddle of dirty water at a vertical/horizontal street intersection. Not yet cleaned up, for some reason, the puddle contained a peculiar elemental mixture that the nano constructor material latched onto.
Strings of nano were pumped through to the Holes fixed onto the dome roof, coiled around themselves, coiled again and clumped.
The newly formed deconstructor nano went to work, with shocking rapidity, on the dome.

***

Anne was in Ocean, in Jenkins' inaccessible lagoon.
"So far so good," he said.
"Better than that. 4Dome will be gone in minutes in a highly photogenic fashion. 2, 3 and 5 will have been compromised from within by demons in about ten minutes. At that point you will own Luna. Less of this 'so far, so good' crap please."
"We don't want to kill everyone on Luna. We don't even want to kill everyone in 4Dome, which is what you seem to be aiming for. It's time to ease off."
Anne and 4demon had infiltrated Holes with mirrors in the shit ball down level after level of the subDomes days before.
Now, activated molecules of deconstructor nano were deposited. Swiftly the subDomes were converted to artfully arranged tableaux of boiling atrocity.

***

How the experiment was conceived, let alone how consent was obtained, was never clear.
Take a little pearl of recorded EM made with a Configuration 3 and simply place it as close to the centre of a brain as possible. As time passed the pearl slowly grew larger, recording brain state vector vs time.
Genetic information could be coded into a pulse place into the soulsphere at inception.
Post-Ruin societies were collectively insane by pre-Ruin standards. Fashions ran through them like slow fire, waves of gullibility and paranoia all running on a substrate of vicious, icy practicality.
Why soulsphere technology was so swiftly and completely accepted, when the explanations for how it worked were so clearly nonsense, was the concern only of a small, shrill minority.

***

John and Sarah lay on the floor, heads supported by cushions, while Ellen and Simon were in the foetal position by the window, their unsuitability for performing field-surgery confirmed. Each agent held two tibias marked with six holes and one cross, Configuration 7s ready for activation.
They were deep in Ocean, waiting for a signal.

***

4Dome cracked as its integrity failed under the deconstructor attack. The pressure difference caused it to fail completely. Air rushed out into the vacuum; both the river Holes were sealed over as the river boiled away; access to sub-levels was restricted to heavily signposted emergency shelters, although no-one would want to access the boiling hells the sub-levels had become; those on the surface and outside buildings died in vacuum; those inside buildings died later as what could only be described as exultant deconstructor tunneled up from below.
The same fate befell the Council buildings, their defenses simply incapable of dealing with an onslaught of such a volume of forbidden technology.
5Council was last to go in a flurry of thousands then millions of silver spheres.

***

Configuration 7 was found by 5Council and 1Council on a plate of iron in front of an anomalous Hole at the Lunar Pole.
At first its inspection was put on one side as 3Council was brought in to help understand the extraordinary farside of the Wormhole.
After a few days 5Council looked at the plate to find both Configuration 7 itself plus instructions on how to use it.
Apply energy to one hole and a stasis sphere would appear, size proportional to energy density, duration proportional to energy applied to another hole.

***

Jenkins issued an ultimatum throughout Ocean. Total capitulation.
It was immediately turned down by 1Dome1Council.
Anne destroyed 2Dome and unleashed the latest generation deconstructors on sub2Dome. She made sure that what was happening to sub2Dome was easily visible in Ocean and the other Metaphors.
After the first ultimatum, another was issued, same as the first along with a demand for the public whipping of 1Dome1Council members.
Cylinder5 vanished in a bubble of silver and a promise was made for its safe return five minutes later.
Five minutes later it re-appeared.
Five minutes after that 3Dome was demolished and contact with sub3Dome was lost.
A further ultimatum was issued, same as before with the additional demand of the public evisceration of 1Council1Dome members, after their whippings.
Cylinders 2 through five vanished with a promise that they would be gone for ten minutes and that each cylinder would, on its return, vanish for a period six months. Should the war be continuing at that point the cylinders would go away for a century each.
Urgent messages were sent by sub-Ocean channels to Jenkins demanding a complete cessation of hostilities.
He followed orders and told Anne to call off her dogs.
She blankly ignored him, her brain having been taken over completely.
Five minutes remained until the cylinders would be bounced into the future.
As each dome was destroyed or infiltrated with deconstructors the controlling demon would smash open its glass-sphere and feed through the Hole within a string of non-Hole dependent nano into Anne or Thomas's brain.
The twins loved collecting Holes. They rarely bothered to find out where their termini were.
Jenkins grew frantic. He couldn't locate the twins physically or virtually. The Kite appeared, fluttering high over Ocean, something supposed to be impossible on every level conceivable.
There was no pretense of trying to preserve anything of Anne or Thomas. Their skulls became filled with whirling storms of nano, their bodies feedstock for the streams of constructor streaming to the Earths' surface through another of the untested Holes the twins accumulated in their spasms of collecting,
The Kite fluttered gently over Ocean, the scene underwater reframing through seven dimensions in order to represent the multivariate rose of violence Ocean had become.
Astonishingly to everyone, especially the Parliaments of the Cylinders, 1Council1Dome shut down Ocean to the Abyssal Depths, allowing a minimal level of communication, safe from the effect of the Kite.

***

The Tessellation maintained a huge highly visible presence on the Earth, in the Clouds and in the photosphere of the sun. They claimed these as the price for a single piece of information they had provided humanity.
Not the Configurations, not the 1% legible piece of the so-called "Encyclopedia" which had provided workable nano-tech.
The fact the Tessellation regarded as most valuable to humanity, what was later called the Rule, was that should humanity ever develop a workable hyperdrive all multicellular life within 400 parsecs of the Earth would be destroyed and the volume remain sterilized indefinitely.

***

Jenkins launched shut down codes in all directions. In Ocean they looked like strange dove-like creatures, making an audible fluttering as they diminished to the azure sky. The ceasefire was received and, reluctantly, accepted by the demons.
For a brief moment Jenkins Virtual and Real locations were visible to everyone in Ocean. The ice cover of his personal lagoon melted under the scrutiny. For a few minutes a gentle snow fell on his artfully landscaped acres with the witty umbrella house in the middle. A dark shadow hovered over the lagoon surface as sticks of dynamite were thrown from it at regular intervals. Physical space began to ice over the snowflakes with startling rapidity.
Two cylinders returned as scheduled. Two did not.
Flurries of diplomatic activity through an Ocean newly free of the Kite barely averted further war, although the ability of the Domes to attack instantly while the Cylinders could no longer attack at all helped. At some point 1Council1Dome accepted the unconditional surrender of 1, 3 and 4 cylinders. This was scarcely noticed as people realized that 60% of the human population had died in pursuit of something none of them understood.
Sarah and John sat on a bench beside the narrow winding main street of the newly pressurized 7Dome.
The new design allowed for no river and peculiar street layouts that strongly suggested muscular crowd control.

***

Once the demons had transited to Earth their Holes were closed. The presiding Tessellation intelligence examined them briefly and found some minor but extraordinary improvements over Tessellation demons. Each demon was bundled in nano transport material and sent through one of the two Tessellation Holes in system.
The high speed objects were registered and recorded as Earth originated anomalies then ignored by the new regimes.
Ocean remained restricted down to the depths, the risk of another Kite attack being cited. All domes were opaqued full time, the new domes lacking even the capacity to clear, for the same reason.
A new managerial class had formed, based in the vast, restricted access 8Dome.
Old and new subDomes were discretely and viciously policed.
New councils were formed, thoroughly controlled by 1Council8Dome.
All Hole and Configuration research was banned as having progressed far enough for safety.

***

Alex sat next to them.
"Not quite what we expected when all this started."
"What did you expect?"
"Not a combination of the worst of Dome and Cylinder, I will say that."
"You're a bit old to be that naive. There are too many of you to feel that way as well."
"Ah, I wondered if you'd catch onto that. To answer your next question, there are currently 5309 of me. That number is falling all the time as the new regime kills me off. Soon I'll be reduced to a few dozen in the Belt and the Cloud. May I ask how you have recovered so much of yourselves?"
"Local backups in the Domes and the Cylinders. No need for Holes.
"What's the reason for the shut downs of potential across the Inner System?"
"Fear mainly. Tessellation activity on the Earth is at an all time high.
"The missing Cylinders add to it of course. Configuration 7 appears to be very easy to mess up. A slight shift in hole 6 and instead of a stasis sphere one gets an enclosing sphere with a mirror inside and out.
"Those inside would have roasted inside a day. A great terror weapon, don't you think?"
Alex winced.
"There go the Mars colonies. 8Council doesn't like gravity wells. Too hard to police. They'll go after the Cloud next. They don't stand a chance there. In fact a war against them could very easily finish off humanity in the Inner and Mid system."

***

The Tessellation that appeared on all video channels after the invasion was strange. An asymmetrical sloth-like creature, fur a dappled yellow brown, it leaned forward, eyes spinning slightly as it explained the Rule in perfect idiomatic, foul mouthed Russian.
Its ship was a tiled white doughnut with a Hole filling the hole. After the speech destructor ships poured through.

***

"You're a trap aren't you?"
He looked sad.
"Yes, I gave you up in exchange for the guaranteed survival of seven of my bodies."
"You bastard!"
"The five minutes is up now. They'll grab and torture this body soon. I'm going to kill it."
Alex suddenly slouched. John checked for a pulse and found none.

***

Cylinder1 had no direct equivalent to the subDomes. It did, however, have huge docking areas with shadowy zones that served the same purpose.
Taking an enormous risk they had twins cloned and accelerated to adulthood via nano. Their own soulspheres were read and the result was loaded into fibreoptic networks within the clone’s heads. This level of personal copying was regarded as utterly repellent and was totally illegal.
The new clones were sent to Luna to confront Alex.
The originals remained in the Cylinders for further cloning.

***

Alex was dead and shadowy, ever larger figures were just visible in the corners of their eyes. John and Sarah knew they were about to die.
The other clones, however, the ones with Holes in their heads were taking the slow ways to all points of the outer system.
Before releasing the magnetically pinned anti-iron in their chests they sent one last signal.
"We love you. Please remember us."

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Bubbles - Part 3

Anne and Thomas transited from Jovian to Lunar orbit in a years long slow sleep. Their weaponry and other dubious tech was removed or downgraded. Their brain augments were present but still empty. However, the mesh of Holes within their skulls, between them and across the system, allowed them to restore what had been taken from the last back-up.
The Holes were the reason for their traveling as cargo, rather than simply stepping across to Luna. Pass a hole though another Hole and both would disappear in a cloud of hard radiation. Pass Anne or Thomas through a Hole and their entirely artificial mentalities would vanish, followed shortly by their biological brains.
It was probable that their soul-spheres would survive. The question was, how far would their soul-sphere back-ups even make sense, given the highly distributed and non-local nature of their psyches.
Jenkins was drip-feeding them the original contents of their optical networks. However, by the time they boarded the Slowship Bulk Carrier 49 they had already retrieved most of their data and routines from backups all-over the system.

***

3Council had had enough and requested aid from 5Council. 5Council responded immediately with an as yet untested Configuration7 intervention team.
Sarah and John were 9 seconds from rupturing the dome when a silvered sphere segment 2 meters tall appeared 5 meters to their left. Without hesitating they turned some firepower against it only to have all the radiation beams scattered in all directions and the material weapons stop dead and explode in mid-air. The sphere vanished and revealed for a fraction of a second a two-drone in front, one human behind setup. One of the drones threw a black cube toward John and Sarah and again the sphere appeared, this time 50 centimeters from Sarah.
The couple instinctively re-targeted on the sphere and ceased fire. The sphere vanished again and they resumed fire, too late this time. The 5Council team moved 2 meters closer under the terrific fire, one drone threw another black cube which reached within centimeters of Sarah and everything changed.

***

Bulk Carrier 49 finally reached Luna and offloaded cargo and supercargo to 1Dome spaceport, a small dome well away from the big 5. Anne and Tomas checked into the only hotel in the dome and spent two days recovering from their own, very special, version of spacelag. As usual, after an extended period shut down, they had an important decision to make.
"How far this time?" asked Anne.
"You choose," said Thomas.
"If you let me choose I'll take it all you know."
“I'm OK with that, just as long as I get a full update.
Then began the process of decanting John's personality into storage as Anne took control of the higher functions of his body. The process was a comforting one for the twins. They’d shared so much on every possible level that they couldn't be separated in any realistic way.

***

John and Sarah transited instantly (subjectively) to the centre of a level floor in a moderately sized dome. The intervention team were in the same position relative to the couple, still the subject of tremendous levels of firepower.
Then the team moved backwards as the couples material attack components were taken out by radiation beams. A savage EMP followed by stuttering magnetic fields of less intensity killed their more vulnerable weapons.
Once all their systems had been taken out or were exhausted, including the AM traps, each of which was now enclosed in a small shiny sphere, they were restrained by heavily armored guards.
From behind them they heard footsteps and then into view came the unbelievably ancient entity that called itself Alex.

***

Anne and Thomas, one consciousness in two bodies, fulfilled their pointless schedule, improvising their way from designated point to designated point. They gawked at unimpressive buildings and pretended to be awed by dull symphonies.
None of it would have got out of the planning phase in the Cylinders.
One highlight was meeting one of the other teams, one with a “more tightly constrained program” according to Jenkins.
It happened as planned, on the riverwalk in 3Dome, just short of the Hole to 2Dome.
The dapper young man wore a crisp white shirt under a satin vest, deep blue jeans and dusty black cowboy boots. He had an angular face, corn-flower blue eyes and salt and pepper hair, cut short.
The skin crawled and split along his cheeks revealing a writhing darkness within.
The young man’s cheeks closed as Anne and Thomas sat down.
“How do you deal with excess heat?” she asked.
“Am I talking to Anne or Thomas?” he asked with a smirk.
“Both. Neither. Answer my question.”
By asking that question the young man had indicated that the security in the area was acceptable.
“I eat standard human food. I heat it up using my excess heat and then dump it through a Hole into deep space. There’s a similar, more effective system for water.”
“So you can't transit through Holes.”
“No, the slow route for you and I. Religious reasons.”
All three laughed, Anne and Thomas in eerie unison until Anne noticed. The loose assemblage of nano and micro-Holes, the presiding AI of which called itself Al Stevens, played with a glass marble containing a small glittering Hole and smiled. The technicians back in the cylinders that had assembled it referred to it as a demon.

***

Alex put down the chair he'd been carrying in an ostentatious display of strength and sat on it.
“You caused a lot of damage, mostly to my reputation.
“We knew you were good but we didn't expect you to be fucking stupid. You failed every test of your restraint and escalated all the way to this place, a 5Council experimental testing range. And you still didn't stop.”
“We had no idea of what was going on, but once we saw the Kite we knew we wanted out. Hence the escalation.
“Just so you know, we will escalate again when we have the chance.”
“You won't. Out of curiosity, why haven't you wired that response out?”
“We have now, but we expected to deal with it better if it occurred.'
“An orange kite over a wood in Derbyshire, England, You know its' significance, yes?”
“The time and place of the first Tessellation Converter ship landing. They teach that in school nowadays.”
“Good. Our societies are finally opening up to the Ruin it seems.”
Memories of being shown images of the landings, always in banal locations. Strip malls, airport taxi lanes, cargo ship decks. Not so much hovering over these scenes as brutally superimposed on them.
Primary colored irregular polyhedrons, they looked like children’s toys, even as the facets exploded outwards revealing coils of shiny white that slithered out and began their terrible task of conversion.

***

Anne met with four other nano-assemblages, one in each dome, each wanting information on how to reach an area of exposed dome as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Since domes were obsessively protected this proved extremely difficult meaning the demons would have to go active far sooner as they would have liked.
Anne was now in full possession of the memories and skills stolen by Jenkins (downloaded from a variety of Hole linked sources, shipped out decades before to friends out in the Kuiper belt).
The Holes embedded in glass bubbles and possessed by each demon were easily sensed by her but their endpoints and purposes were unknown. The demons just laughed at her when she asked.
Giving up on finding out more about them she concentrated on the mission.
She and the demons traveled across the Lunar surface by bus between domes, like a third of the tourists who had religious or psychological reasons for not using the Holes.
She used these brief transits to think about dome security.
4Dome was the hardest. Who knew what horrors were within that ring of pure white cubes? Anne recommended a pure brute force attack. No nuance or attempts to limit deaths or destruction. Just total conversion. The demon assigned to this done, Al Stevens, seemed to like the idea.

***

The Earth was converted to a mass of undifferentiated Tessellation construction material down to the mantle. Every so often some incomprehensible artifact would burst from the surface and fly through one of the two Holes the Tessellation had placed in the system.

***

Sarah and John were brutally cored, their personalities stripped down to a handful of interlocking commands serving one central aim. This minimal core was designed to produce what looked from the outside a genuine, normal person. Interacting with one of them for an hour or two, however, would give a compelling sense of dealing with a zombie.
The central desire revolved around a pattern of six holes and a cross mark etched into all four of their thigh bones.
Punch through the cross mark and Configuration 7 would result.

***

A final, incomprehensible, insult was the damage done to all the children and subsequent generations after the Ruin. Certain images of the Ruin, most often the orange kite but also sight of the Earth itself, would trigger uncontrollable homicidal rage in the viewer.
Some regarded this as a strange covenant the Tessellation had made with humanity.

***

Sarah and John no longer had any Hole dependent implants and so they could take a Hole transit to Cylinder3. They knew that each of the other cylinders had its own team, but they didn't care. They made use of their genuine dual citizenship to find one of the low-level jobs (sewage system monitoring) it would always be cheaper to use humans for rather than expensive AI based systems.
They waited for a signal. The first came when Anne and Thomas left for Luna.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bubbles - Part 2

On Cylinder1 Anne and Thomas had their appointment at 1902 Spinward, Three Outward. A largish piece of real-estate mostly taken up with ceremonial hedges, low hills topped by wooden gazebos, winding gravel paths and the omnipresent water features.
Gentle rippling light from the sea on the other side of the cylinder lent the scene a sense of peace.
They both felt appreciation of an artfully reconstructed piece of Earth style total defense. Especially one that originally contained a very large, very dirty nuclear device as its centerpiece.
The central house consisted of plates of creamy white fake limestone hanging from an umbrella of compacted Lunarian dust.
Their new employer, Mike Jenkins, knelt on a cushion, a circle of important looking icons slowly circling him. He made a stylized gesture to Anne and Thomas who obediently knelt, dropped into Jenkins personal lagoon in Ocean and immediately drowned.

***

John and Sarah reflexively started to destroy the terrible image and everything around it. Their rage prevented them from fully efficient use of their weaponry and this proved their downfall. While distracted by their spasm they were immobilized from behind by two large combat drones.

***

Anne and Thomas operated just below the electability threshold and were therefore unaccountable directly to the populace.
Mike Jenkins held a lowly elected position in engine maintenance as a flimsy cover for a stratospheric security clearance and near-unlimited expense account. These came as concessions to his usefulness in Ocean control and as a whole also place him above public control. The combination of Anne, Thomas and Mike was regarded as so potentially useful that it had been held in reserve for a project as important as the current one for several years.
"So why are we here?" asked Anne, her rage at the forcible die-back of her extended psyche held in check by her curiosity.
"You are in this place, in the crippled state I placed you in, as security precaution," said Jenkins.
The image of the multi-colored reef below was distorted by the interface of life-bubble and Ocean.
"You killed 95% of our minds just now. You do realize that?" said John.
"Of course I realize it. I stored all of it in this lagoon," he gestured at a large patch of virulent red coral.
"You'll get it back as soon as we're done here. The whole pile of amateurishly integrated sociopathy and arcane skills."
"Again, why are we here?" asked Anne.
"A decision has been made at the highest level to bring the Lunarians back into the fold. The Tessellation extend their hold on system real-estate every year and we can no longer afford humanity to be divided like this. You two are going to co-ordinate the opening of the invasion."
Much of their capacity for intense and sustained rage was in the supplementary optical circuits that threaded through their brains. Since those circuits had been blanked Anne and Thomas were more equable than they had been in decades. As a result they accepted the information Jenkins gave them in a far more relaxed fashion than they would normally.
They spent a minute contemplating the undulating fronds of anomalous galactic centre data before returning to the subject of the conversation.

***

"You should be mature enough to be immune to those images." said the old man with the creased face, voice flat with what Sarah now recognized as a Northern English accent.
"You know what those images represent and you know the curse the Tessellation put on those born after the Ruin. You're lucky we didn't destroy the building," she said.
"I was born before the Ruin, on Earth, so I have no tendency to violence when I see the Kite. It's not really a curse by the way. It's a neurotransmitter cascade caused by certain images in the visual cortex.
"You were recommended to me as being flexible, among other things. So far I see no evidence of this. Frankly I'm not too sure what to do with you. Probably best to put you on ice until the festivities are over."
His smile was like rocks colliding.
Free of the rage the Kite induced, Sarah and John calmly moved into maximum destruction mode.
They began to erase everything around them, starting with the combat drones, in a mist of embedded munitions ranging from nano to thumb sized, using their bodies as feedstock for ever more exotic weapons.
Heavily shielded penning traps in their lymph nodes trickled out thousand atom clumps of anti-iron, thrown along curving trajectories by powerful magnetic fields generated in their torsos.
Four and a half minutes had passed since they had entered the room; forty five seconds remained of available munitions, including those that could be produced by consuming materials in the room.

***

Thomas and Anne were fascinated. It didn't occur to them to doubt Jenkins. His resources were clearly far too great to make lying worth-while.
Although they still wanted to kill Jenkins and gnaw on his bones, they were intrigued.
"You'll arrive as tourists traveling for an Earth viewing from 4Dome. You will provide back-up to other teams with more tightly constrained missions." said Jenkins.
Nothing in the plan seemed problematic, although the nature of the other teams caused Anne and Thomas some consternation.
The only real difficulty from their point of view was the Earth viewing. A large group of fanatics going into an Earth fugue could be unpleasant.

***

3Council were increasingly concerned with the damage John and Sarah were creating.
While 3Council group defense admired the artistry with which total damage was being contained, it was felt that enough was enough.
Sarah and John were on the verge of punching out through the cube wall and then the dome itself. From there, their heavily augmented bodies would get them to an emergency stash on the Lunar surface and then progressively less clearly planned steps out to colleagues in the Kuiper belt.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bubbles - Part 1

Mid Twenty-Third Century



Later, when they could think of the boat trip dispassionately, it would be clear to both of them that the whole vacation had been set up as R&R before the task ahead.
They looked over the side into the startlingly deep water, depth upon depth, shading to turquoise or jade depending on how far the river bed had been burned.
They easily caught a nearly tame trout and cooked it whole in the sand box, leaving the sand to produce something edible out of the fish.
Before they could eat, however, they were summoned by 3Council4Dome for reassignment.
The boat stopped pretending to sail and the pretty blue tiller rattled loosely as they pulled alongside a narrow pier. It was Johns’ turn to be chivalrous so he got out first and helped Sarah onto the fake limestone slab.
They were met by a small wheeled drone that called itself 4HumanCompliant1028Drone3Council4dome.
“And for short?” asked Sarah.
“No,” said the drone, leading them up the slope towards the edge of 4Dome,

***

Each time a new dome was raised it would be sculpted with the river as the lowest point with, on either side, rising terraces of clean white houses. A parody of a Mediterranean fishing village, those houses closest to the half mile wide, slow moving river were the most sought after.
Every attempt to suggest a different template was slapped down by the ever expanding managerial classes who coveted those villages with intensity just this side of sanity.
The rest of the population, who lived more interesting lives underground, let them get away with it, as long as the managers supported the artistic endeavors of their children.
4Dome differed from the standard template in several ways, the most obvious being the blank white cubes along the dome line. These were the various council buildings, headquarters of the scientific meritocracy that ran Luna.
John and Sarah usually worked for 1Council (internal affairs) or 2Council (system wide affairs). They were poorly suited to 4Council (deep/interstellar affairs) or 5Council (scary Configuration research).
3Council was ‘Holes and engines’ which included in-system Hole construction and maintenance, interstellar wisp Holes and spying on the two local, Tessellation built, Holes captured by the crazed democracies in the Jovian cylinders.

***

John wore below the knee shorts embroidered with assorted nerve gas formulae and a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘arriving somewhere but not here’. His fake beach-bum ensemble was completed by very expensive, genuine truck tire sandals.
Sara’s dress was conservative to a degree that irritated John. White sandals, white socks, pleated white skirt and a plain white T-shirt.
While they waited at the door to the 3Council cube John passed the time by trying to persuade Sarah to upgrade her shirt.
“Sound of Muzak? Ignition Threshold? The Veil, the Blindfold of Thorns?”
“Wait, where did that last one come from? The one about the Veil?”
“No idea, just a thought. Too long probably.”
Just then, the door opened and the drone rushed in on a clattering of chain-link wheels.
After a short walk following a guide light they were deposited in front of a non-descript door on a balcony in the central atrium. A place filled with the standard Lunar water sculptures and towering green plants.
The door opened and a nasal voice with an unplaceable accent called them in.
Their first reaction was one of astonishment at the age of the man propped up behind the desk. Their second was of unthinking rage at what was on the walls to their right. A large picture of an orange kite over a small wood on an otherwise desolate hill.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clearance Sale - Part 2

My contract had ended and until I got another one I was left to drift around the apartment, cleaning, adjusting furniture, surfing the net and so on.
We had plenty of groceries after a friend gave us a ride to a bigger store so I had no reason to head to the supermarket.
One day, however, I had a craving for some rich chocolate ice cream. After shouting my conscience into silence I set off down the road.
Once again there was a small crowd in front of the ex-office supply store. I was startled. What else could be left to sell? As I got closer I saw that the store had been modified in strange ways.
There were heavy looking struts on the windows and a peculiar and heavy looking door at the entrance. In the door was some kind of pressure outlet and from it ran a hose to a powerful and noisy machine.
"Ah, madam. welcome back," the tall man said. His face was flushed a deep red, as though he'd been drinking heavily. "Are you here to see the latest part of our program? Perhaps to purchase our latest product?"
I looked in the window and couldn't see a thing in the store.
"What on Earth are you selling now. There's nothing left."
"There is something. That machine is set up to suck air out. Look."
I saw to my astonishment that there was an attachment to the hose that ran to a bottle. As each person in the line reached the front a new bottle was hooked up and the pump presumably filled it with air from the store. The person then paid and left, bottle of office store air in hand.
"You're selling air aren't you?"
"Of course. We have to maximise our profit. And people seem ready to buy our product."
I lost my temper. I hit him with everything from my left wing youth: exploitation of the people; the corrupt nature of capitalism; the failure of material things to give happiness. The word "proletariat" may have passed my lips once or twice.
Through all this he remained completely frozen, his smile and his stoop unchanging. When I was done he thawed and began to move again.
"Poor arguments from a practical perspective I'm afraid. People want stuff. Also, given the recent interest in things green, we are a most environmentally sensitive company. We sell that which is no longer needed and impact a volume equivalent to several large homes with minimal ecological damage. There's no air conditioning in there now. Not needed. And that compressor is running on biofuel. We're a highly successful, deeply green, customer satisfying company. Look at those people. Tell me they aren't happy."
As a matter of fact they didn't look happy. They looked just as beaten down and tired as everyone else.
I couldn't face pushing the argument any further so I made a brusque farewell and went home
#
Two weeks passed before I went to the grocery store again, our friend with a car being very generous with his time. I was still working at home and was spending my time doing some self-training in new techniques in my field.
After a hard day at the screen I decided to reward myself with some chocolate ice-cream. Once again I set off on the long hot trek to the store. Once again I was astonished when I turned the corner to the strip mall.
As seemed usual now there was a small line in front of the ex-office store. This time the ones at the front departed with very sturdy cubes containing who knew what.
I reached the store and saw something that horrified me. Through the struts across the windows could be seen the empty expanse as before but right in the middle, hanging in the air, were small cubes of nothing. How I knew it was nothing I don't know. They were a glittering grayness, or so it seemed. It hurt to look at them. The eye slid off them as though they were cubical blindspots, as though they were the nothingness that was left when the vacuum was taken away.
It turned out I was correct.
"Hello again. Calmed down a little?"
This time he looked even more artificial than before. The stark sunlight accentuated the sharp creases of his suit and the now angular facial features. He looked as though he'd been folded from paper, an origami figure made of cotton, flesh and light. I frostily said hello and asked what was going on.
In front of the store was a large truck covered with what looked like control boxes and gas tanks. From it ran two heavily insulated pipes from which small sheets of ice would fall occasionally, both pipes running to the now medieval looking door, a mess of massive sheets of some dull metal, small pipes and heating elements.
"We're reaching the end of the project. We just had one thing left to sell. Do you see, or rather you don't see, those cubes in the air in the middle?"
"I see them. They're horrible."
"Yes, they are aren't they?" He seemed rather pleased by my reaction.
"What are they?
"It turns out that it's impossible to get to an absolute vacuum. So we decided to just go straight to another, even more extreme impossibility. Removing the vacuum itself."
"That is just non-sense. By definition a vacuum is empty. There's nothing there to remove."
"It turns out that according to modern physics (you have no idea how useful that field of science has been to us) a vacuum is full of fleeting little fizzes of subatomic particles. We saw an opportunity to make a little money there. And we were right. People will pay for little pieces of the local vacuum state. We throw in the virtual particles for free."
"That's impossible."
"Well, yes it is. But as long as there's money to be made the impossible is not a problem for us.
We have to think of the shareholders. We really don't want to piss them off."
I was speechless. I decided that to stop myself crying or laughing uncontrollably I had to speak. So I asked the first thing that came to mind.
"What's next? Take away and sell absolute nothingness?"
"Sadly we've gone as far as we can. After we're done here we go on to clean up another closing store. With the economy as it is we have no shortage of victims available."
"But what's the point? Surely you could make almost as much just selling the stock and fixtures?"
"You'd be surprised how much we make when we start the physics part of the operation. But the larger point is for us to form a network of emptiness. Then we do the difficult bit: joining the nodes. And then the shareholders come for, well, call it an inspection."
With that he walked away as though he'd lost interest in me. And I walked away, filled with a terrible foreboding.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clearance Sale - Part 1

That summer we had no car. Fortunately we lived within walking distance of a supermarket, although it didn't seem like walking distance after struggling home with a backpack in one hundred degree temperatures.
Each time I went to the store I would walk past another that specialized in office supplies. As big as the supermarket with large glass windows at the front, presumably to show off the wonders within. The fact that it was obviously failing ruined this image.
The store always appeared to be a place of dust, no-one there except for obviously demoralized staff and a few zombie-like customers.
Then one day as I walked to the supermarket I saw large signs in office stores' window.
"EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!!"
As I'm sure was intended, the red and blue stripes filling the poster around the text were less a patriotic statement than a crude attempt to arrest the eye of a casual passer-by.
I stopped to see what I hopefully expected to be a train wreck. Anything that required the deployment of those posters could not end well.
The trucks passed by on the high-way, making a noise like mechanized rain. It made for a suitable soundtrack for what I saw in the office store. Half filled shelves made of raw steel tubes, a floor that could do with a cleaning, bowed down customers amazed less by the cut prices and more by the fact that they were in this place at all. It was as though Communism had come to the USA, decades late.
A tall man came up to me. Later his appearance was often fluid so it seems important now to record his initial, possibly fundamental, image.
As I said, he was tall and of average build, against my experience with the very tall who usually tend towards pronounced thinness. His facial features were irregular, asymmetrical and, when he flashed one of his frequent smiles, extremely attractive. The crooked smile under the sparkling blue eyes gave one the feeling that the world needs pranks to be played out within it.
He lurched towards me and loomed like a crane.
"Care to come in madam? We have many great bargains. The end is near, so to speak." Then he grinned.
"No thank you," I said. "I have all the office supplies I need."
"But it's not just office supplies you know. Come back in a few days and you'll see."
Changing the subject before he made any more strange statements I asked, "It must be depressing to see one of your stores go under like this."
He laughed and as he did so his feature seemed to change, become far more angular. Then his laughter ceased and he replied, "Oh no. We didn't own the store when it was a going concern. We bought it as-is when the parent company made the decision to close it. Our speciality is making a profit from failure."
I was disgusted by this and, after a curt goodbye, set off home.
#
I was working at home that week and my husband made the grocery runs. When he came back one day he seemed a little dazed.
"You should see that Office store. It's amazing."
"How so?"
"You'll have to see for yourself."
Bored that afternoon I went to buy some milk. As I turned the corner to the strip mall I saw a small crowd around the door to the office store. As I got closer I saw that people were carrying out roughly cut tubes of steel. I realized, astonished, that they had been in there specifically to buy pieces of the racks. Who knew what they expected to use them for. Some people were carrying small grey boxes. I stopped one and asked what was in it. He told me -- dust. Shaking my head I walked on until I saw the tall man. He caught sight of me, smiled and waved at me and turned away to talk to someone in overalls holding a clip board.
Getting my milk I left for home, increasing my pace as I walked past the weirdness next door.
Unfortunately I was trapped by the tall man. He smiled and loomed over me. "Amazing isn't it. There is value in even the smallest things and people sense that and buy it when it's available."
"You're ripping these people off. They're naive enough to buy anything if you put a price on it," I said.
"Well, that's another way of looking at it. Either way our existence as a company depends on squeezing profit out of this store in any way possible. And shopping is the opiate of the masses after all."
Feeling that I could be about to enter into a pointless argument I said goodbye and left.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Disguise the Secret - Part 3

She tried to shake off the inhibitions of a lifetime and set off towards the hill. She climbed it feeling fragile and was intensely nervous, filled with thoughts of what she had been told about this mound. That witches gathered there each new moon; that the fairy folk, with their silver skins and strangely jointed limbs, lived beneath it; that it was the centre of the world and the protecting walls of cloud spun slowly around with the top of the hill as their pivot.
As she reached the top she saw a fire had been lit in the middle of a wide circle of flat stone slabs. On the other side of the fire from her sat the old man, unexpectedly tall with a face invisible under his thick dirty beard but with eyes a friendly, warm brown.
He said nothing, just looked at Ana as though sizing her up for some task. She felt like a free labourer being assessed by a potential client. He began to play on a small drum -- a simple repetitive beat that got inside Ana’s head.
She could see the sparks rising in a fountain of speckled light. The old man's eyes were black through the fire. Confused and a little frightened Ana considered leaving but from somewhere she found the strength to stay.
She could see the stars spinning, a sprinkling of snow against soft black felt. She remained silent.
She could see that which all the inhabitants of the land could see but always denied, sometimes with great force. She could see the flesh-in-ice itself.
She'd seen it once before, in a waking dream she'd had as a child.
Huge, mountain sized but without the solidity of a mountain, it drifted, somehow obscenely, over the ground, as light as feathers with a body that was roughly conical in shape, three sets of tentacles projecting from half way down. The tentacles tapered and coiled inwards, each set of coils wound around the body when not in use.
It moved on countless stubby, unarticulated legs and where each leg fell ants of ice, translucent blue, emerged.. They hurried across the ground in stark contrast to the slow gait of their parent and they  ate the ground, turning it to tiny lumps of ice which they piled up, producing ever growing spires, watchtowers of the cold they spread.
She'd run to tell her mother about the dream but mother hadn't listened to details, just laughed in joy that her little girl was becoming a woman. She'd been dragged before the council which called for a celebratory feast that night. Her waking dream was a form of prophecy, a rare skill and one that only came with puberty, hence her mothers delight.
At the end of this reminiscence the old man had stopped his hypnotic drumming and sang in a high fragile voice. Ana listened, almost drifting into a waking dream such was her concentration. She didn't understand but she felt as though something important was happening to her.

I once had a world in box
Speckled blue, the size of your fist
Resting on aromatic wood shavings
I can smell them now as I sit in my dark cell
I smashed it, I was only a child
I dropped it from a top floor window
It shattered and out came a drab brown bird
It flew high, then higher then disappeared
We all get one world and every world gets a bird
To warn other birds of a new predator
To be lured away from the speckled blue eggs

She was slowly understanding what the old man’s mission involved. He wanted to repair the world, he was just an old tinker repairing the bottom of a pan.
He stared into her eyes and, without breaking eye contact, reached to his neck and pulled over his head a small cloth bag.
He tossed it through the fire and to her surprise Ana was able to catch it. She loosened the drawstring at the top of the bag and poured out onto the stone in front of her a handful of pure white bones, slender white flutes.
At first she wondered if she was supposed to read some deep truth from the way the bone straws had fallen but then, looking up at the old man again, she realised that something stranger and more fundamental was expected of her.
Bones laid out on a stone in front of her she reached out to the fire, as did the old man she only knew from this clearing. Together they made a tear in the way things are and opened a way to the land of screaming birds.
Drums everywhere overlaid by the desolate screaming of birds. There was a terrible emptiness in her eyes. It was a world that was one giant blind spot -- the eye skid across it. The near gray (but really as far from gray as ice was from water) space defied the eye to look at it but defeated the eye every time.
There was only one set of directions to move in here, up or down, and nothing was moving up. Ana realised that this place had been constructed especially for one purpose -- to torture a bird, to take away its chance to move gloriously in all the directions available, to blind it and replace what it could usually see with its great acuity with this visual wasteland. Even in the short time she had been in the land of screaming birds she had found herself forgetting what the other directions were; what blue looked like; how there was an option other than to endlessly fall.
She couldn't see, the wrenching visual emptiness of the land prevented that, but she sensed a dot coming towards her from below, growing larger, clearer to whatever non-visual sense she was using. Somehow the ragged broken object was _flying_ towards her. Then she realised it was a small bird, one that seemed to have been mangled then burned. How it was still alive, let alone flying in this terrible place, she didn't know. The bird landed in her arms.
"She's here because she let a man kill her and take her feathers. Or rather she's here because of what happened afterwards. He ate her eggs you see. She was supposed to protect them by luring predators away, pretending to have a broken wing. She'd be easy meat then you see? Easier than rooting around for some nest that might not even exist. She died and couldn't protect them. Or you.
"You will gain nothing here and will lose much."
She would have screamed at the unfairness of it, but every sound she tried to make simply became another layer of drums.
Then, winding its way through the rhythms, came the old mans wavering voice.

We own who we are
Always
We all live forever
Endless
We all have a home
Glowing
In birdscreamingland
Falling
Just one more black dot
Screaming
Reach out and take
The Lapwing

She held the bird, its heart strong despite its injuries, and turned in an impossible direction.
She was back on the hilltop, the world was complete again.
After gently putting the bird down on the stone slab she tried to wipe off the vomit she must have thrown up when she was in the Land of Screaming Birds.
Finally looking up she saw that the old man was gone. For some reason she wasn't surprised. She now knew what came next and it only needed her.
Ana held the bones, now somehow turned soft, and easily molded them together with her hands into a ball. It was like firm clay and was slightly warm to the touch. She rolled it into a long cylinder which she divided into three sections and these she wrapped around the body of the bird. Then she halted. She wasn't sure what would happen next but she had the feeling that once she performed this last action in the ritual she would be changed. There was always a cost to such powerful science.
She took a deep breath and gently breathed on the corpse of the bird.
It fluttered, the loops of bone were absorbed, she held it high over her head then threw it into the air.
The bird flew up, higher than high, silhouetted against the squirming bulk filling the sky. It should have turned away or been driven back by the icy winds issuing from the pores in the flesh-in-ice. Instead the bird got closer and closer, vanishing one second as its wings closed, flashing a pure white from the underside of its wings the next.
As it seemed to get impossibly close to flesh-in-ice, the flashes so tiny as to tax the eyes, the blinks of white became syncopated, as though one wing were ailing. Simultaneously it began to drift to the left, a hurt bird favouring its bad wing and looking to land as soon as possible -- a small, brown, deceitful bundle of love.
All this took place against a backdrop of smooth, dark green-grey almost covered by clouds of pure white ice powder. Gradually the clouds grew. The flesh-in-ice could still be seen but now it gave off an air of confusion, as though its concentration were split and something new had taken its attention.
The clouds that gyred around the hill lightened and seemed to speed up. A sweet breeze came from the sea.
***
The old woman slowly climbed down the hill. She muttered to herself as she went and even if the words couldn't be heard the tone of her voice was filled with a kind of triumphant regret. Occasionally she would rub at her forehead as though it pained her, but whatever was there she had covered with an improvised head-scarf. She kept trying to stand up straight, to place her feet more delicately but her body lost no time in reminding her what she had paid for those white clouds over a smiling blue sky.
She reached the camp but, being an old woman, was invisible so she kept walking until she reached the forest. There she paused and looked back at the refugees. Soon they would realise that the world had changed, return to their old homes. For now they would bicker among themselves and with the villagers, eat that foul blue paste in incomprehensible stews.
The old woman laughed shortly. Then she turned and began the long trek to the edge of the world. There she hoped to see a bird and, if possible, protect it from senseless hunters.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Disguise the Secret - Part 2

Into the meeting hall came Theodore, the headman. He was surprisingly small and slender. His eyes, perpetually wide and a deep clear blue, were notoriously poor at seeing, a fact that many miscreant children had taken advantage of. Apart from the eyes he was dark with black hair and skin that looked tanned all the time.
He walked off center, a syncopated lurch that was the result of something breaking in his brain some years before. Even his many enemies refrained from mentioning his ailment, partly through compassion, but mainly to avoid the explosive rage he exhibited whenever it was brought up.
No matter the clothes he wore he always had his grandfathers belt around his waist. A thick strip of leather held in place by leather thongs through holes. Hanging from it, all the way around, were a score or more glossy black feathers and it was this that caused awe in those open to the emotion. Having seen a bird was singular enough. To kill and eat one, to absorb its power, was both wonderful and appalling at the same time.
His family had relied on this awe to maintain their grip on the village for three generations. Whether the bird feathers carried any science was an open question.
"So here is our precious waking dreamer and her latest piece of adornment. Are those spirals what all the young ladies wearing nowadays? I admire the extreme dedication to beauty those tattoos represent but why not use henna, as is more usual for this kind of thing?"
"I need help sir. Please tell me what I can do to rid myself of these marks."
He turned away slightly and in the flickering firelight seemed to be snarling. Then he turned back with a full smile on his face.
"You messed with the bird didn't you? The loops don't like that. They'll push you away from the bird but not before teaching you a lesson. You're lucky they didn't give you a taste of the land of screaming birds. They did that to me and look what happened."
Then Theodore, who refused to allow those around him to even allude to his malady, astonishingly pirouetted, almost stumbling as he dragged his paralysed left leg around.
No-one said a word. Other than the crackle of the fire the hall was completely silent.
"There's an old man with the refugees who's supposed to know about these things. Ask him."
"And how shall I find him sir?"
"My spies tell me he's known as Actor."
Then Theodore turned and walked away through his private door.
***
Forehead still pulsing with pain Ana made her way to the camp.
A couple of hundred refugees from the now frozen edges of the world had congregated here, instinctively sensing that while the villagers felt sympathy for them, this sympathy didn't go so far as to wanting to live next to them.
Out of guilt, perhaps, the village had given the refugees one of their three cornucopia rings, a loop of dull metal that, fed with raw material one side, produced a bland but nutritious paste from the other.
To feed themselves the refugees fed the ring night and day, the resulting devastation in the meadows and forest becoming a growing source of conflict between village and camp.
The camp sprawled, seeming far larger than it really was. The tents and shelters were varied in material and form. Some were made of oiled fabric; others from sewed furs; others again from glued flame leaves. The sturdiest were carts, covered in planks of wood..
There was a smell of cooked spices in the air, mainly ochre root, thick, heavy, resinous. Over this drifted the smells of paprika, coriander and garlic but the food of the camp looked strange to Ana -- bubbling pots of green lentils with the ubiquitous blue stuff from the cornucopia ring.
Everywhere there were tiny oil lights. Rather than having one large light for each tent the camp residents had chosen to use many small lamps and as a result there was a magical flickering that seemed to have no source but filled the camp with a gentle glow that came from everywhere.
"He's up the hill," the sullen child said, holding out his hand for a reward.
"But no-one goes up the hill!"
"He did. He's been up there for days. Reading the sky, he says."
From his tone and attitude it was clear that the child regarded this as a form of laziness.
Ana gave him a couple of copper pieces. He sneered and ran off into the camp.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Class Warfare

The children of the rich are becoming a separate species
That they are taller and better looking can be put down to
Good nutrition and confidence respectively
But they have long thin limbs
Delicate long fingers
Large but flat chests
They run for miles and still have
Energy for enthusiastic, cool skinned, inventive sex
They are being bred for some high, thin aired Shangri-La
As the world below falls apart they will breathe
Clean air, they will run up and down their mountain valley
Use their long thin fingers to operate computers
Doing rocket science


They will fight wars against us low-landers
As we rise from the sludge of all that is left
They will leave for Mars and we will stay
Failing to deal with a biosphere spasming
And collapsing back to slime mould


The children of the rich are becoming a separate species

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Disguise the Secret - Part 1


The lapwing's poetic meaning is 'Disguise the Secret' and it is her extraordinary discretion which gives her the claim for sanctity.
Robert Graves, The White Goddess

Ana carried the basket, dry reeds woven together into lines and loops, filled with mushrooms. A basket, she sometimes thought when in one of her down moods, that was sturdy enough to carry her head should one of her frequent migraines cause it to fall off.
As always she stopped at the Tall Stone, the prone Lesser Stones scattered around it, paying obeisance. and she put down the basket and walked up to the tall, misshapen spear of rock, bowing a little, respectful of the power in this place. At the height of her head there were carvings, almost invisible after centuries of erosion, covered with lichen.
Above there were three spirals in a rough triangle. They were perfect, as though measured out with ruler and string. Their edges were sharp and they were deeply incised, as if with an inconceivably hot knife -- were it not for the lichen they would look as fresh as the day they were cut.
The inscription immediately below the spirals was different. Faint almost to the point of invisibility with lines that were at times almost just scratches in the rock, it showed what was widely agreed to be the profile of a bird.
Its head was held high and its tail, long feathers sticking out and up, was just as perky. The only peculiarity was that the visible wing drooped at an angle which seemed wrong, as though it were broken.
On an impulse she leaned forward and kissed the bird. It tasted of flint and salt and she was about to raise her head from the stone, strangely disappointed, when she felt an intense.burning on her forehead. Gasping she fell away from the tall stone and fell to the ground, almost blinded by the agony.
When she came to she had no idea how much time had passed. The sky was darker, but that could mean a storm was coming.
Still in pain from whatever had happened to her forehead she picked up her basket and continued on her way home. As she walked she tried to convince herself that there was a rational explanation for what had happened. Most likely she had had some kind of fit and, as she passed out, she'd bashed her head against the rock. Perhaps the fit had been brought on as a punishment for kissing the bird, or more likely there had been something in the salt on the rock that caused a moment’s unconsciousness.
***
She reached home only a few minutes later. The small cottage with a thatched roof and wattle and daub walls was cozy but nowhere big enough for parents and grown up children. Even when married they needed permission from the headman to stake out some land and build a home of their own.
She pushed her way through the chickens inside the crude wooden fence and walked in to the start of the evening meal. Normally only one or two of her brothers and sisters would acknowledge her entrance. This time, however, there was a gradual dying off in the volume of the chatter as each person looked at her.
"Oh child, what have you done?" said her mother, rushing across the room to her.
Mother had a mirror, a treasured plate of polished silver that she had used when younger to make sure her hair was right. Now she was older and cared less about what people thought but she kept the mirror to remind her of the past while her daughters schemed to be the one to receive it after her death.
In it Ana could see her face. The angular but pretty features were still there as were the storm-cloud grey eyes, slightly too far apart but made up for by their size.
The horror, however, was on her forehead. Three spirals in an equilateral triangle lay there.
"It's not a burn, it's a tattoo. Look at how blue it is. A burn might heal but this is there for life." said her mother.
"But what do I do? I can't go about like this!"
"You could try going back to the stones. Don't look at me like that, it's obvious where you must have got these marks. The only person I can think of to ask is Theodore. He has spies everywhere and I remember that when he was young he spent a lot of time at the stones. Maybe he will know."
Mother sounded dubious but Ana grasped onto this as the only piece of good news she'd received this evening.
Her mother looked up at her. She always wore drab brown and was almost spherical these days. She seemed to have somehow given up on appearances after father died. All the same some faded glamour and a hint of her past beauty (not enough beauty to drive men and woman away, but just enough to attract them) remained. One didn't have to try too hard to see who she had been and by extension what she had done.
"Be careful Ana. That mark will bring certain kinds of people to you. They will want to take something from you and give nothing in return. The flesh-in-ice gets closer each year and people grow desperate. Someone with your talent could be very interesting to those expert in science."
With that last warning mother bustled Ana out into the night to go to the meeting hall.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Fifteen ways of Looking at a Lapwing

1.
"The secret of the lapwing is, disguise the secret."
(Robert Graves, The White Goddess)

2.
The Lapwing is hopping across the grass
Its play of a broken wing convincing all critics
And attracting them away from the nest.

3.
Small black eyes peering out of the hedgerow
Constant patrols to secure the perimeter
Lacking any defensive capability beyond the wing trick
The Lapwing scans the sky for signs of hope

4.
We will summon all of our resources
And those of our allies
Spy satellites the size of pickups
Will gently rotate and re-focus
 Ballistic, sub-orbital Spy planes will fly overhead taking 10,000 pictures a second
Glittering machines
The size and shape of spiders
Will skitter through the hedgerow Looking for the nest

5.
To be the first to fly across the field of broken bones
And see the roadway of shards the dead will walk upon
To fly across, along, up

6.
Against a sky that looks as though
The blue were matte paint
Hastily slapped on the heavens
The Lapwing cuts lines and curves,
Tying the sky together with grace.

7.
In the land of screaming birds space is only direction, not distance
Time is stretched to an endless glowing moment
There are no clouds, just a blue mist
Overlain with the patina of infinity
That mortal eyes never see
The delicate white crackling, the evidence of vast age
Black dots skim across

8.
The evidence of age, the skimming black dots
In the land of screaming birds each dot is a bird with
Wings sewn together over its back, eyes pierced with
Needles, legs broken in multiple places
They fall forever Each a Lapwing who lost her nest

 9.
The meadow, blades of grass
A landscape of soil, ripe and scalloped by the rain
Steamy loam ready to take to a different kind of nest
Suddenly a wall of feathers descends
Huge and brown, iridescent, each brown drab feather
Somehow rippling deeply with colour
A light bomb exploding with colour like a tropical sunset
The wing scrapes overhead and is gone

10.

The bird skims across the water like a skipping stone
Pursued by a snarl shaped like a fox.

11.
Across the causeway Into the castle
Castle Perilous
Fifteen entered How many left?
None left but one

I could see the sparks rising in a fountain of speckled light
The old man's eyes black through the fire

Across the causeway
Under the ground
Castle Perilous
Eleven entered
How many left?
None left but one

I could see the stars spinning, a sprinkling of snow
Against soft black felt.
I remained silent

Across the causeway
Into the air
Castle Perilous
Seven entered
None left but one
But the six flew higher
Slipped along fault lines of sky
Saw the benevolent grinding
Of the millers stone
And only wanted to be chaff
To be blown away
And to fly higher
And the one that was left
Each time she fell
With a broken wing
What was her name?

I took my right hand cupped
Whispered a name into it
Made a holding fist
Threw the word across the fire Into his chest
He grunted and fell back slightly
Then smiled and across the fire
Threw the small sack from around his neck
I opened the bag and Gently spilled out the bones within
Slender tiny flutes from a small bird
Bone laid out on a stone in front of me I reached out to the fire
As did the old man I only knew from this bunker
Together we made a tear in the way things are

And opened a way to birdscreamingland
We own who we are
Always
We all live forever
Endless
We all have a home
Glowing
In birdscreamingland
Falling
Just one more black dot
Screaming
Reach out and take
A Lapwing

Close the tear
Become mortal
Filled with sorrow
Fifteen breaks in her legs
Eleven needles in her eyes
Seven breaks in her wings

I give a week from my life and use the whole bones to heal hers, remove stitches and needles and throw into the air a small, brown, deceitful bundle of love.

12.
These are the jokes - An Interlude

A Lapwing went to heaven
It was full of foxes
The Lapwing confused them all with graceful pirouettes on its' "good" wing and million mile an hour loops
No eggs were lost
Ever

When NASA decided to send a Lapwing to the Space Station they sent no eggs. The Lapwing adopted some spider eggs instead. It learned to loop and gyre in micro-gravity, teaching the baby spiders to spin the strange webs they spin in space. It tried to lure away the bits of cosmic radiation always hammering through the station. At this it was 100% successful. Unfortunately the scientists weren't watching. The spiders grew up happy, well-adjusted and expert web makers

birdscreamingland would be prime real estate if it weren't for all the needles

All Lapwings have subscriptions to People magazine. It makes excellent nesting material.

13.
I once had a world in box
Speckled blue, the size of your fist
Resting on aromatic wood shavings
I can smell them now as I sit in my dark cell
I smashed it, I was only a child
I dropped it from a top floor window
It shattered and out came a drab brown bird
It flew high, then higher then disappeared

We all get one world and every world gets a bird
To warn other birds of a new predator
To be lured away from the speckled blue eggs

14.
Augury is the art of telling fortunes by watching the flight of birds
The Lapwings' flight always tells of the same future
A future of great peril and unselfish sacrifice
This prediction is always correct

15.
A piece of magic, a faked broken wing
It's love, pure. simple, a sight that lingers

Sentimentality aside, how could
This be anything but a mothers love

To pull along on a leash of weakness
The predator, a task that's endless

Again sentimental, but no surprise
There, where success is achieved by lies

"Hide the Secret" is such a human trait
When the opposition force is too great

To distract, to hide, to make things appear
Other than they are, learn to make a tear

In the way things are, and slip through a wing
Save the young, pull a fast one on the thromg

Of those who would hurt you or your young, but
How could evolution, blind, cause such love

The slow grind of mechanistic forces?
Or a benevolent creators courses?

We should know by now that often love is
A blind mechanistic force, a habit, has

No purpose beyond its own selfish needs
And a creator had best stick to seeds

The fifteenth way of looking at a
Lapwing is for a gene to go and

Make copies of itself and fill the pool
Fighting all the other genes with a silent howl

The faked broken wing is a happy chance
The Lapwing itself a DNA dance

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Sea of Dreams - Part 4


We dug back into the shoreline according to some plan dictated by Constancy.
As far as we could tell, we and the other crews were were making complex the simple, beautiful curve of our coastline.
Curves were becoming irregular fractals once the high basalt dams came down.
The serious questions were, "Why do this?" and, "Why do it so inefficiently?"
***
I had a feeling I'd find Neil getting drunk somewhere on the Sea of Tranquility seafront. He always liked high class bars with nice views, when he was sane and presentable enough to get served.
Sure enough I found him at a table looking out over the Sea of Tranquility, kept company by a G&T.
I sat opposite him and ordered a coffee from a sullen looking waiter.
"So what's going on Neil? Why was I brain-screwed by Constancy then bugged by her?"
"A black dog and a white dog fight, which one . . . ."
"No Neil, no more of that shit. Answers please"
"Look," he said, pointing behind me. I turned to see his dogs glaring at me.
"Don't care, never will. Why did you get Constancy so pissed at me." I ignored the huge favours he had done me and the Sea of Dreams. My brain was more important.
"I was spreading my wings a little," he said. "You were the one who got me away from the dogs Michael. If they'd been around when I pulled my magic tricks with your Sea they would have chewed through the door to stop me."
"So why didn't they?"
"The mote repelling field of that strange gun of yours confused them. It had the opposite effect on me of course. Cleared my mind to the point where I could issue commands to the Ship again."
"What did you say?" I asked. "About the commands I mean?"
He leaned forward and pulled aside the fur above his right breast.
"I wish our ancestors hadn't bred us for fur and large eyes," he said.
Beneath the matted fur I could just see a tattoo of three spirals in a equilateral triangle.
Shocked, I leaned back and inspected the highlands.
The Sea of Tranquility rose gently until it was over our heads. The white houses on either side were like clean foam on a breaking wave. Behind them the wheat fields glowed pale grey under the bright pulses of the noon sun.
"If that tattoo were fake Constancy would tear you apart. So you really must be crew."
"All that's left as far as I know. The others vanished one by one. Constancy couldn't kill me of course. "
A heron flew overhead, laboriously pumping air like a poor mechanical parody of a bird.
"Why couldn't it? Who are you?"
"I'm the captain and Constancy is hardwired to protect me."
"That is such bullshit. There never was a captain. With Constancy there's no need for one. Anyway, you're just a stinking drunk like me."
He looked south at the soaring endcap, pulses of gray daylight travelling out from the central hub.
"I'm 350 years old Michael. None of us stayed truly sane after 200. Constancy had to take over. Someone has to make the tough decisions."
The dogs were sitting, intently watching us. I'd never seen them so placid.
"The others are dead. They were in the way I suppose. I, however, can do things Constancy can't. I can access protocols it has no access to. You saw what I did with your Sea. That won't last by the way. All the Seas are screwed in the medium term. Iced over as available energy falls. I think Constancy has a plan though."
With that the dogs tried to leap over the table at Neil. Fortunately for him I was in the way and braving a whirlwind of snarls and teeth I held them off while I yelled , "Get to my apartment and get the gun." He ran north as I returned to being pissed at the powerful dogs.
Eventually I got a blow to the throat of one of the feral beasts, but as it fell the other one clamped its jaw on my arm.
It hung onto me, dragging me to the ground. As I lay there, trying to pull myself free, the dog I thought I'd killed weaved over and vomited in my face.
***
We're digging fjords," said the man with all the answers.
"Tiny, wee fjords. Liquid water coastline segments for seals and walruses to live in when the freeze comes."
Most of us ignored him, wanting only to eat our gruel and sleep. Some no doubt planned to give him a beating that night.
"And why the hell would that be a priority Alan? Sea of Vapours is already cold enough for seals and walruses," I asked.
"You'll see. For now, think about what a stable, low energy ecosystem would look like."
Alan was most likely the Constancy spy for our work crew. It was hard to tell if his claims of inside information were bullshit or not.
***
The impossible colour again.
"It's called blue. Eyes like yours, adapted to the low light levels on the Ship, only see shades of grey. I, however, can excite your visual cortex directly" (the dolphins lifted me to the surface, chattering clicks like bursting bubbles)
"Even now, with the low energy levels we use, the system is dying. Something must change" (cold blue water all around, no sign of land, no sign of my parents)
Cold blue water all around ("things must change, energy levels in Ship must fall, the Seas must suffer")
"A great freeze is coming. The ecosystem must be flattened. The brutalised will survive. Hence the work camps, factories for vicious practicality" (the dolphins carried me, me alone, across the great blue to land)
"Neil disagrees. He would rather fire the gun" (it's so cold out there in the deep water, sinking into that new colour, seeing it get deeper in shade)
"He has your gun. He can't use it. Not yet at least. He is very intelligent. That extra implant you now have lets me track you even if you get the gun back"
***
I woke up, a jaw shaped gash in my right arm, a blinding headache and a face full of dog vomit.
In disgust I threw up myself, the mess I made adding to the utterly foul dog mess.
I threw up again, a cascade of vomitous horror that lasted an eternity followed.
The dogs were gone, thankfully, so I cleaned myself off as well as I could and staggered away, vaguely wondering why the sheriffs hadn't come for me. I could only put it down to Constancy regarding me as an ally now.
I headed back to my apartment to find the print covering the gun hole smashed on the floor and the gun gone.
***
Constancy has returned to me a few times since. Across my system rather than through EMP or nano laced dog vomit.
I think it's scared. Its' neat plan for an iced over world inhabited by a rigid, low tech society could be rendered pointless if Neil bypasses the safeguards on the gun. He'd rather see the Ship destroyed than our gentle, complex society reduced to that level. He told me he's 350 years old after all. He said that past 200 one is insane.
My hope is to try and get Constancy to modify the severity of It's plan. It's a friend to me now. It shows me the beauty of blue whenever I ask.
It's told me It's finally over-ridden the restrictions on It or the dogs killing Neil. So now its a race between Constancy getting Its' motes past the guns suppression field and then sending in the dogs, or Neil getting past the gun's safety.
I know where I stand.
***
I have visions of a world of ice, two dogs slipping on a frozen lake, chewing on a human corpse.

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