Saturday, February 11, 2012

it will never be the same

The Ideal of Memory (Part 2)

An hour later Jon was up in the hills behind the doctor's office complex. He forced his way through ankle deep bracken closely followed by his minder which bounced lightly across the vegetation.
He reached a small gorge, ancient looking despite being no more than a century old. Crumbling strata of reconstituted asteroid rubble were criss-crossed by roots of geneered dwarf oak trees.
He pushed towards the back of the ravine, branches and twigs whipping across his face. Against the smooth vertical cliff at the end was a small crude shrine - a low pile of rocks surmounted by a rough wooden crucifix. Orange thread linked the extremities of the geometrical figure.
Jon knelt before the altar and bowed his head. There was a moment of quiet broken only by the drip of water from leaves.
"What would your fans think, Mr Sorenson? If they saw you worshiping the kite?" Asked the minder in a voice like crashing waves.
"Less of me, no doubt. You can't tell them though, can you?"
"Of course not. My purpose is to prevent you from causing damage to the cylinder, yourself or others. I am curious though. Why do you revere such a traumatic event? It's almost equivalent to worshiping the Tessellation themselves."
Jon paused before answering, visualizing the pale nightmare the alien Tessellation had converted Earth to.
"Seeing the Kite at such a early age made me who I am. My mind has been dominated by it ever since, even though it's poison has been drawn by becoming a memory of a memory. I revere it because it represents me."
The minder didn't reply, just rustled like dry leaves. Its curiosity seemed to ebb and flow depending on how close Jon was to requesting its services.
As he pushed his way back through the vegetation the bush robot followed with it's characteristic fluttering noise.
Suddenly a great stillness fell over the landscape. As empty silence that almost as quickly as it arrived was filled with a distant whine. There was a smell of vinegar and aniseed and Jon dropped briefly into the default data Metaphor of Ocean.
During that flash of the Virtual he saw the local reef crumble, the seafloor boiled and space inverted to reveal a torus covered with off-white plates of various sizes.
Ocean folded itself away, leaving the torus floating impossibly in mid-air before him in the Real. It was an arm span wide and seemed as solid as the plants it floated above.
The bush robot expanded and rushed forward like an angry cat, only to come to a shivering halt beneath the torus.
"Such threadbare representations. So empty and you wall them from each other so firmly Why do you do this?" came a voice, light, genderless, amused.
The white torus drifted aimlessly in the air. In it's hole was a space of eye-wrenching nothingness.
"Are you the Tessellation?" asked Jon, surprising himself with his calmness.
"Tessellation is a good name. That was well-chosen by our earlier reification. Yes, we are Tessellation, present in the chaos of your Real."
Jon remembered that in the partially translated encyclopedia the Tessellation transmitted before destroying the Earth it seemed that they had a poor grasp of the difference between Real and Virtual.
"What can I do for you?" He asked.
The banality of the words belied the deep terror he felt. As far as he was aware this was the first ever dialogue between a human and the bringers of the Ruin.
"Joy! We bring you a gift, Jon Sorenson! A gift for the one who understood Configuration 3."
Jon nearly cursed aloud. Configuration3 had haunted him for decades, was directly responsible for the now quiescent bush robot having been set to dog his footsteps.
The twisted space in the center of the torus shifted across the up-curved landscape of the cylinder, distorting the view like a lens of crystal.
"I was lucky. A recurring nightmare and access to classified research materials were all it took to crack Configuration3 and soulsphere generation."
"You were blessed. Blessed with the temperament and position needed to leverage the knowledge we gave your sleeping mind."
Jon stood silent as his heart sank. The Tessellation artifact seemed to be claiming responsibility for the towering achievement of his life.
"Now we come to give you a second gift. A way to avoid the pain of incontinent memory. Behold!"
Something broke in Jon's head.

The Bottled Smoke Artworks of Jim Dingilian

Jim Dingilian is one of those rare artists who stretch the limits of creativity with their amazing creations. He uses candle smoke to paint picture-perfect images on the inside of empty bottles.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Ideal of Memory (Part1)

"You saw the Kite once, didn't you?"
Jon pondered the question while looking out of the window. Reeds swayed in a shallow lake, the cylinder curving up sharply behind.
"Yes. I was fourteen. One of the kids in my class got hold of a self-unpacking copy and sent it to me."
A small attachment icon unfolding in the desk space to reveal a flat, hi-res image. An orange kite over a small wood on a desolate hillside. A deep sense of completion and a profound, unthinking rage.
"It took four people to restrain me. I was in deep therapy for a year afterward."
"And the boy? The one who sent the image, I mean?"
"He was executed."
Water features were a ubiquitous element of post-Ruin life. Large, complex ones in public spaces, smaller, more conservative ones in private. The doctor had what seemed at first sight to be a cylinder of flawless glass. Touch it, however, and it would be revealed as a non-turbulent flow of water.
She'd told Jon that it was called "The Ideal of Memory."
The doctor stood up. She was small with pixie-like features and tightly curled auburn hair cut into an asymmetric cloud. She walked to the window and stood beside Jon.
"Some people deliberately seek out the Kite. They regard it as a sacrament, a gift from the Tessellation. What do you think?"
Jon could see a lapwing among the reeds. The bird fussed around, looking for food.
"I think the Kite is a joke. A neuro-transmitter cascade resulting in a fugue of aggression, caused by an image of Earth immediately pre-Ruin. What else could it be but an incomprehensible alien joke?"
"It could be a sign. A difficult to interpret mnemonic designed to show us what we could lose by our indefinite lifespans."
The doctor had finally got Jon's full attention. He turned towards her, stooping slightly to look into her eyes.
"I don't understand. What does the Kite have to do with life extension?"
"Live as long as you have and the topography of memory becomes an exaggerated badlands with sharp peaks of frequently recalled mnemonic loci separated by ravines of forgetting. The Kite is the ultimate bad memory. A huge mountain dominating everything. It's an image of the logical outcome for an un-optimized mind."
"Bad memories linger and scab over, good memories fade. I'm familiar with the concept. It's why I'm here after all."
Jon glanced over at his minder, a soccer ball sized ball of micro-manipulators condensing to darkness at the center. It rested on a chair, shimmering as if caught in a breeze.
"Just give me the word and we can start right now. The bush robot is fully prepared," the doctor said.
"We have enough from you for full mnemonic repair to be a success. Your depression will lift, I guarantee it. You'll no longer be under twenty four/seven surveillance."
"And I'll no longer be me," Jon said.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Conclusive Proof that I am a Genius

So, I did a google search for Shoal + alien to see if any of my Shoal Wars material showed up.

I found, to my horror, that there is another, fairly successful, SF series that has an alien race called the Shoal...

I just changed the Shoal to the Tessellation everywhere I could think of ...

Monday, February 06, 2012

"The Cone"

"The Cone" is now available (for free!) at Smashwords, or you can pay for it at Amazon.
It includes the title story (about a US marine who has been transformed into a housefly made of coral and the terrible revenge he takes) and two other stories.
Go here.

If you like it buy me something from my wishlist.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Intermission: The Early Evolution of the Cloud of Nails (Part One)

The long frivolous dream of the Puppetmakers erupted into savage transcendence with shocking rapidity. All their carefully constructed shallowness, the cities of colored glass, the refined arts, the chirruping vacancy of their puppets, counted for nothing once deep hidden urges surfaced in the face of circumstances that their programming considered to be just right.
Survival in a Tessellation dominated universe was never something that could be assumed over the long term. The Puppetmakers had achieved it for millennia by consciously making themselves over into something they thought the Tessellation would find harmless. They engineered themselves as thoroughly as they engineered their own puppets, cutting viciously away at anything that could be seen as encroaching on the world of the Tessellation. Curiosity, the tendency to expansion, a desire to rule their own lives - all went under the knife, leaving a species that seemed as easy-going and unambitious as the Tessellation could ask for. The Puppetmakers home system, a dead-end at the terminus of a tedious number of Holes, became a beacon of what enlightened Tessellation despotism could achieve.
Under it all, however, the icily unforgiving true nature of the Puppetmakers persisted, hidden in clouds of colored smoke, behind jeweled mirrors. Rituals that seemed to be empty of all meaning other than that of providing spectacle encoded species specific behaviors that would only become manifest under very limited circumstances. Strangely structured lumps of crystalline rock scattered on the edges of distant deserts pulsed slowly under energy giving skies. Insects swarmed in ways that were not quite as efficient as they might have been, encoding information that could never be acknowledged.
The whole system was written upon as if it were a great book, ciphered and torn apart, pages hidden in the behavior of naked burrowing animals or the genetic code of yeasts.
The Tessellation could have seen all this - the True Tessellation would have seen it immediately. The True Tessellation were, as always, engaged on the greatest question of all, however, and their minions, the False Tessellation , were in their way as programmed and rigid as the Puppetmakers. They saw nothing to worry about and allowed the slow dance of Puppetmaker civilization to continue un-molested.
Then, one day an AI that had been set a problem thirty thousand years before awoke from its researches with a sharp shard of certainty in its consciousness. Embodied in a lump of metal laced diamond the size of a fist and situated two kilometers down in a subduction zone off the coast of the main Puppetmaker continent, it sent a heavily disguised signal, something that looked like a compressed cry of anguish from a dying remnant of the old days boiling over into multiple extremely long wave radio frequencies. Mission accomplished the AI allowed itself to fall into solipsism, the final reward for good cybernetics.
The signal was received and decrypted by the personnel at a small research establishment seemingly devoted to the further development of the Puppetmakers genetic technology, a field of study that was of no interest to the Tessellation .
Part of the signal, however, contained a trigger that activated hidden potentialities in the hereditary priesthood that occupied the base.
Now moving more quickly than was usual for Puppetmaker Brahmins, with a certain fixity of purpose and a hungry look in the eyes, the Puppetmaker scientists, fully awake for the first time in generations, took a long look at the remainder of the signal from the buried AI.
Nothing further would have happened for centuries, most likely. The information would have been filed in some deep fashion and the researchers would have returned to happy childishness. The great genius of the Puppetmakers, however, their defining characteristic perhaps, was their skill at improvisation and the fully awake scientists realized that in combination with certain other long-laid plans the new data could be a true breakthrough. In a matter of hours, without any consultation beyond their own group, the scientists assembled the necessary equipment and set in motion the single greatest rebellion the Tessellation had seen in millions of years.


Certain technologies were forbidden. That was one of the central facts that defined all civilizations under the yoke of the Tessellation . The obvious one was hyperspace, the faintest whiff of which was enough for the Tessellation to sterilize large swaths of a galaxy. Others were less obvious and, the Tessellation not deigning to enlighten anyone explicitly as to what they were, could only be identified and avoided by watching to see what other races were up to when the Tessellation destroyed them.
Rumor had it that one of these technologies was the confluence of unrestrained nano-tech and Configuration 3 souldsphere tech. It seemed that the Tessellation had a dislike of large, distributed intelligences, probably because any species that achieved this transcendence was but a step away from hyperspace. A possible technique for generating such intelligences was precisely what the diamond AI had achieved. The Puppetmakers decided to use this technique.


A nano-fab unit, the pinnacle of molecular-scale additive technology, was hastily programmed to produce hordes of tiny machines, each inscribed with Configuration3, the particular array of dots that, set in the correct orientation, produced a sphere of curdled space-time that encoded any varying electro-magnetic field in its' vicinity. Small clouds of the nano spread out through the research establishment and began to feed, converting any suitable material into copies of itself while infiltrating anything that appeared to be sentient and making pearls of light that encoded the state-vector of that sentience.

The process was slow at first and there was plenty of time for the Puppetmaker scientist/priests to feel their bodies and psyches being torn apart and re-configured. The process was agonizing and some of the minds subjected to it broke like stressed ice, storing up engineered loops of terror and anguish that would cause problems later.

Gradually, over the course of several hours, a cloud of glittering specks began to circle around the low adobe buildings that made up the research post. A whirlwind of thinking dust that towered above the structures and surrounding vegetation and occasionally bent down to the ground to shred and consume some vital element that the cloud felt it needed. Leaf analogs, dark purple with a photo-sensitive pigment similar to chlorophyll, circled within the cloud picking out clearly to the eyes of the semi-sentient animals in the area loops and eddies that seemed un-natural, engineered.

At first the cloud showed clear divisions within itself that mapped back onto the individuals that had formed it. One of the advances made by the crystalline AI, however, was a kind of operating system on which these intellects could run and separation was not a requirement under these protocols. The mentalities merged, memories smearing out, egos being damped down, but never extinguished completely. Emotional states (emulated now there were no biological processes driving them) were now chosen on the basis of their utility at a given moment and the over-seeing mentality, an emergent near-sentience that was the reification of the abstract principles the operating system rules embodied, picked emotions from the psyches that comprised it as though it were picking ripe grapes from a vine. It forged an emotional environment that all decisions made by the pandemonium of voices rested upon and the primary flavor that made up this environment was rage.


The cloud grew at an exponentially increasing rate, consuming everything around it that was useful. There were no other Puppetmakers for over a thousand kilometers in any direction so the growth was purely physical. No further psyches were to be added to the original two hundred and thirty from the research base and fifteen of these souls were broken, locked into psychotic loops that the operating intellect used as a source of raw, natural rage to be fed into the turmoil of the emotional base state of the cloud.

The nascent intellect sent out signals in a variety of forms (short-wave radio bursts, pulsed seismic events, pheromone clouds) which activated other, deeply hidden, sources of resistance. As the cloud grew the rebellion unfolded like a fist, Hole linked centers of rebellion bursting into action, improvising a response to the new status of the system that focused manically on one simple factor - isolating and destroying all Tessellation presence in the system.

The Puppetmakers were lucky that they were so isolated and that as a result the Tessellationpresence in their system was relatively light. The two main Holes always installed by the Tessellationwere demolished within the first few hours, antimatter weapons that had been hidden beside them millennia ago detonating in the first round of hostilities.

Mass drivers, habitually used by the Puppetmakers for cargo transit throughout the system, were targeted at Tessellation bases and ships and the Tessellation , taken by surprise, were decimated by high velocity lumps of iron targeting them from every occupied planet or moon. Constellations of aggressive satellites that had previously looked innocuous proved themselves to be one-shot gamma ray lasers, they sacrificed themselves in nuclear explosions that produced high-frequency EM beams that reached across tens of thousands of kilometers to vaporize Tessellation material.

While the removal of the Tessellation proceeded the cloud grew larger and larger, its controlling intellect absorbing or simply obliterating any competing intelligence. Even though the Puppetmakers were one of the more culturally homogenous races in the galaxy (they couldn't have survived as long as they did otherwise) there were differences in the philosophy of revolution that had to be resolved one way or another for the rebellion not to fizzle out in civil war.

(To Be Continued)