Monday, April 02, 2012

Sea of Dreams - Part 2

I decided to let Neil stay a few days. We were both screwed up. Perhaps between the two of us we could make a non-screwed up person.
Maybe we could go to a meeting or two. Or go to a pub.
I was OK with either.
"Over there, Neil. Go pass out again."
Obediently he collapsed onto a mattress up against a bare brick wall. Above his head was a print of early ship construction. Scaffolding around a series of misshapen rocks.
I called up my system and the room filled with pristine, simple graphics.
I didn't care about the calls, mails and constructs spinning wildly in one corner. I'd already screened them back at Tranquility on my bracelet and paper. Nothing that couldn't wait until tomorrow.
I invoked my high level Sea of Dreams Ecological Council clearance (a green ghost emerged from my forehead and flitted to the commlink box).
The room filled with a graphic representing the Sea, all blacks and greys. Tiny patches of white around our reclamation projects.
Short of restoring the maintenance equipment and opening the Sea up to the Seas to the south, we were finished.
I took a couple more pulls on my bottle and collapsed on my own mattress.
The next morning I woke to find the room filled with weird organic looking mounds, shifting purposefully around the figure seeming to orchestrate them from the middle.
"Neil, why the hell are you playing games on my system and how the hell did you get into it?"
"There's always a back door and it's not a game. Look."
He raised an arm, momentarily from his conductor routine to point at the tiny indicator near the ceiling.
It was odd. The system was in some deep sea control zone I hadn't previously been aware of.
There were unlocked wave parameters, full access to heat/cool circuits; light and oxygenation controls and so on.
Most astonishing of all was access for repairbot systems Shipwide. With that we could really begin to repair the Sea of Dreams.
Abruptly the system crashed with a flash of the impossible colour we'd been taught from infancy to associate with Constancy.
"What the hell were you doing, I've never even seen that colour outside simulations. Have you called the software cops down on us?"
"No, just the dogs, and they would have been down on us soon anyway.
"What you saw was a low level goal setting space for a large number of disparate elements. You should be getting some help soon. Think of it as a gift for your hospitality. Not many people would have taken me in. Be careful though. When Constancy comes a'knockin', tell it the truth. That I did all this on my own."
"Constancy calling on me? Get the hell out of here!"
He was smiling as though he'd just heard the funniest joke in the world. Just as he reached the door he turned to me and said, "Oh, that pistol you have in the wall? Hide it better. A gun untagged by Constancy is a great rarity. Ever tried the safety catch?"
"Once," I replied, caught off-guard by the change in subject. "It scared me."
"It should. Only you or another member of the security family could do that. A rather drastic device to be used if Constancy were suborned by an alien invasion. Could be useful under other circumstances though. Keep it safe."
With that the tall, upright, dignified, terminal drunk left.
I looked at what Neil had done. The goal he'd set for the Sea, the relatively modest one of return to some sort of living stability, was being worked on many fronts simultaneously.
Most significantly, fleets of repairbots were converging on the Sea of Dreams.
For almost a day I watched my Sea being stabilised then rebuilt.
Water filtration system (emergency use only) activated; wave systems running; lights on; oxygen pumping; stage one of a cascading restocking sequence churning out heavily adapted algae killing viruses.
I hadn't even known that the restocking tanks still had anything in them. There were even augmented dolphins!
Most of the repairbots were engaged in basic cleaning of the sea-bottom and sides. Rugged rock all the way to the abyssal plain scraped clean. Toxic sediment fused into blocks and used to build an island.
I sat back and watched, drinking from my emergency 1.5l bottle of vodka.
I was entirely a spectator having been locked out of all executive control. Everyone else at SoDEC had been locked out as well it seemed from the frantic messages I received from my colleagues.
I ignored them, determined to enjoy the show while it lasted,
More troublesome were the intrusive media demands. In the end they burned my home system so badly I retreated behind the Constancy generated firewall.
I had to make a couple of trips to the store for chips and more vodka. It was on one of these that I received the news that the repairbots were leaving and that our resource allocations were being reset to normal,
I was mostly OK with that.
I felt like a kid finally caught eating his way through the candy isle. The fun was over, punishment loomed, but I'd eaten a lot of candy.
As I walked in my apartment door I was grabbed from behind and I felt a net thrown over my head.
My implants were destroyed by a pulse which must also have sent me into a seizure, When I came around my scrambled mind kept sending me into a present occupied by an impossible colour which surrounded and penetrated me.
A huge non-voice said, "Where is Neil?"
"I don't know," (I saw it once, as a child, from above).
"Why did he do this?"
"It was a gift," (It was grey with creamy wave-tops speeding across).
"How did he do this?"
"I saw it once, as a child, from above," (we crashed, controlled, the pilot expertly turning decent into turning blades, into slower descent).
"Why did he do this?"
"We crashed slowly, touched the water and turned over."
"Who is he?"
"He brought us the possibility of reclamation, screw you!" (Blue water, mirrored balls of all sizes erupting from my mouth and nose, the clicking laughter of dolphins).
"Where is Neil?"
And so on, Constancy patiently asking the same questions over and over as its' impossible depths mercilessly took me to the central event of my life.
I woke alone and crying in my apartment.
I accessed my SoDEC account using data goggles since my implants were now burned out.
I saw whites, pale greys, some blacks. A vast improvement and one that looked as though it might even be stable.
The limited view I had through my goggles also showed a frantically flashing icon I didn't recognise at first.
Then I realised it was my bank, only the logo was black rather than the white I'd always seen before.
While my goggles ground away at a complex rendering of heat gradients I called up the bank icon.
I fell back slightly as though slapped.
A deposit of C500,000 had been made that morning, tagged, "With thanks, C."
My first reaction was to demand Constancy take the money back or give it to charity. Anything to get it away from me. Then common sense cut in. After the shit I'd been put through I deserved some cash, to buy new implants and some vodka if nothing else.
I used some of the money to hire a system clean-up agency to repair the damage caused by Constancy and the media. Then I checked the totally obvious hole in the wall where I kept the gun.
It was somehow still there. Sleek featureless metal, solid barrel, very serious safety catch. The only indication that this wasn't a normal pistol, other than the dead giveaway of that blank barrel, were the dense coils around the handgrip, containment for the anti-iron within. The little readout for the penning field (and who knew where power for that came from?) to be 90%.
My grandfather had told me that our family had possessed the gun since launch although he didn't know why. He also told me that the gun couldn't be tagged by the ubiquitous smart dust that Constancy used to track everything on the ship.
I, for once, showered, put on some vaguely clean clothes and after a liquid breakfast went in search of a neurosurgeon.
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