Cu1ture B0mb Rejected Chapter 3
. Eusaiph. TIK Chamber. 3392
The ship performs the final countdown to docking. The crew all seem relaxed, even jovial, which is giving me a bad feeling. Something is going to go wrong and its going to be my fault.
“What did I do this time?” I say, expecting the ship to suddenly lurch, drop or shutdown.
“Desi?” the Commander queries from the bridge.
“I’ve got a really bad feeling, Madog,” I explain. “Something is wrong.”
The ship drops back into reality with a slight tremor. There is complete silence from the bridge.
“Erm… Could you meet us by the door, please?” Madog’s voice is guarded.
“How bad is it? Are there tentacles?” I ask, I should never have watched Anime.
“Tentacles? No, ” Commander Bullit chuckles.
I meet them by the hatch, the ramp is resting on that weird catwalk, and way below there are ships under repair and construction.
“Oh,” is all I can manage, but there is no feeling of relief as I gaze out at the TIK chamber. I’m not home, why shouldn’t it still feel weird.
“Come on, cheer up! We’ll go and debrief, go to the funeral and then meet Nansiroot for the wake!” says Yuta, rushing his drones down the ramp ahead of us.
“Assumption,” Srinoxi Magnim Folva qualifies, “the facts of her residency will be based on the mission debrief. Your data may be paramount to her installation from backup.”
“Oh, so no pressure then,”
The Commander smiled, patting me on the shoulder, before exiting the ship. Folva grins evilly at me, before he also walks down from the ship. Reeny looks me over quizzically.
“Being mathematical your debriefing is of diminishing importance to Nansiroot’s promoting. Unworrying be. Eventing is of negligible possibility of culminating.”
“Yeah, it might never happen,” Hober grins, chewing his virtual gum, and winks at me, “Come on Desi, best not keep Norridi waiting.”
We walk down, the catwalk is much less scary now I’ve worked out how to hover, and a couple of times I step free of the catwalk to pass drones.
Debriefing is a sudden affair, a massive upload of data from each of us, and then apparently another upload from the ship’s backups. The Commander looks pleased, it seems Nansiroot is going to be promoted, and much to everyone’s surprise, so am I.
“Promoted? But, she is a local guide, this is highly irregular,” Folva moans.
“Are you implying that a mistake has been made Folva?” Madog smirks, and Hober flat out grins at Folva’s sudden discomfort.
“No, of course not, it is simply… just… irregular,” he tails off, sulking.
“Believing Srinoxi recommended deleting Desi, saddening from perceived lacking of professional respecting?” Reeny queries. Folva looks disgusted and strides through decontamination and out of the TIK chamber. Yuta chuckles to himself, allowing just a little to leak to Reeny and myself.
I note my new orders, I’ve been assigned quarters in the alien sector and have a few hours to kill until the funeral and wake. So I decide to go see the new place, and grab a shower and some food.
The apartment, when I’ve found it, is a weird combination of real and simulation. Take the windows, they look out of my own bedroom back in Liverpool, or any other view I remember. The bed is simply a huge block of slightly sculpted memory foam, dressed in simulated sheets and duvet. The food preparation area so called because it is definitely not a kitchen, seems to be able to produce cardboard with extra vitamins and minerals and a completely synthesised taste and smell. I tell it to make mashed potatoes and sausages and gravy, and to be fair it is pretty convincing as white, fluffy carbohydrates and synthetic poly-proteins go, the gravy is no great shakes though, it is far too watery in texture.
I turn on some of my music; all of my books, videos and CD’s are virtually available to me all the time now. Some of Yuàn Wàng Daw’s collection has also seeped in, and I realize there are other bands that I’ve never heard of on the shelves that some other Desi’s have passed over the connection. I listen to some of it, some weird kind of easy-listening punk stuff and some heavy metal with a real dance music vibe. Odd stuff, not un-cool just weirdly unrelated to any music from my own history. Imagine trying to understand the Beatles if your only frame of reference was the Charleston. It gave me that kind of feeling.
I realize that time has flown and I’m required to attend the funeral shortly. I take the lift, able to note the inertial stabilizers and safety fields in some detail now. Formula and numbers flow away as I undoubtedly broadcast them to other Desi’s. The funeral is taking place in some kind of chapel beneath what I think of as the Norridi-nest complex. There are hundreds of Eusaiveans passing through the entrance, over which huge, letters seem to be carved into the rock. In reality of course it will be one of their weird circuit diagram things, but it looks to me like six feet tall Latin letters.
“Hall of Fame,” though it occasionally flickers to, “Aula Laus,” and Chinese characters.
“I think our translation matrix is going wrong now, is that Latin?” I say, mainly to Yuàn Wàng Daw. She indicates, or one of the other Desi’s does, that its leakage from the other Desi’s back into our perception, she’ll have a fiddle with the matrices and firewall settings to sort it out.
The Hall of Fame is a huge marble-lined chamber. Actually it kind of reminds me of a big shopping mall. It has that same veneer of style to everything. I get the impression that just behind all the marble, gold trim, greenery and concealed lighting there’s concrete, steel and slightly dodgy wiring, no matter how much my Femites tell me this isn’t so. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a fast-food restaurant around the corner.
In fact, around that corner I find the first of the alcoves, inside the alcove there is a holographic image… something is wrong with my perception and translation matrix again, as the Eusaiveans depicted here are wearing Encounter suits, despite the fact that they should pre-date the development of Encounter suits by hundreds of years. The small data plaque tells me that they are known as the five first. Volunteers who assisted Norridi in the development of Cyberwraith technology. There is an embedded video of the first upload attempt, classified, of course, but somehow copies of the file slip into my archives, just not copies I can read. Historical documents that I can read instantly into my Femites, tell me all about the lives of these five scientists, and how they developed the upload process, including the various developmental psycho-social-lingual-engrammatic matrices that they developed in order to model sentient beings. I’m sure if you are a Computer scientist, working with a Quantum Physicist and a Molecular-Neurologist then at least some of those files make sense. For me it seemed largely nonsense, though my Femites did point me at my own stored Cyberwraith matrix, the model of my own nervous system, including my memories and Yuàn Wàng Daw’s now, stored in a compressed, encoded form, which gives me some idea as to how it works.
“So why did you guys do it, huh?”
“Of course, there is a pressing biological imperative toward survival,” one of the images responds directly toward me, causing me to jump slightly, “but there was also the matter of supplying the newly constructed… Classified… with a personality… Classified… resulting transformations… Classified… Engrammatic complexity… Classified… Sock on a mountain.”
“Er… Thanks, most of that was classified though,” I respond.
The Cyberwraith image, glowers alarmingly back at me, “Yes, definitely an unintended aspect of the program… Classified… was never intended to achieve self-awareness, shouldn’t even have been possible without biological patterning. Too late now, system embedded at psycho-social… Classified… gene templates. Most personnel now incapable of…Classified… There’s not really room for agnostic thought in a binary state system, is there?”
“Yeah, no, sorry, late for a funeral,” I say, not really following what he’s on about.
“Not a funeral, an installation, we’re not really… Classified… ” he looks angry again, then resigned so I walk away.
I walk on past numerous alcoves holding images of various Eusaiveans down through the millennia. Some are scientists, others war heroes, I notice there are no artists, poets, musicians or politicians amongst them. Must remember to ask about that sometime. The centuries of stored heroes go by slowly, as I ascend higher and higher in the hall, to newer looking gantries and alcoves. The numbers go up here, there are more alcoves, and more holograms to each alcove. The dates getting closer together and later in time. Then there is a jump in numbers, the Alcoves seem to hold thousands at a time. I read the data labels, wondering about the change, seems around a hundred years ago the Femites they were using about then became capable of storing the Cyberwraiths of the people they were installed in. It stopped being a volunteer program intended for only the elite, instead it became a way of preserving everyone upon death. Most who die aren’t placed in the Hall of Fame though, they are just stored in computers, in what the Eusaiveans call Back-up space. You have to be exemplary somehow to get in here. Still though the numbers were much higher than ever before possible.
I carried on moving up, even spotting a group scene of a number of Cyberwraiths I recognize, they display to me as Kinderoids, since that’s how I know them. Judging from the numbers of other Eusaiveans stopping to chat with them, that’s how most folk remember them too.
“Salli?” I spot her in the crowd, its definitely her.
“Yes, can I help you, Agent?” she responds with her usual warm tones, but no sign of recognition.
“It’s me Desi, don’t you remember, I came to you for training a few days ago, I stayed with the children, I was training as a local guide,”
“I’m afraid you must be mistaken, Agent Clary, I have not been assigned to Kinderoid duties for over a decade, and have never been involved in training any Eusaivean as a Local guide.” Salli responds.
“Oh? Sorry I guess, I’m going to be late, excuse me,”
“Of course, Agent,” I slip away into the crowd. I knew something was wrong here, knew it. I find the funeral party pretty quickly two floors up. Hober Yuta is broadcasting a strong homing beacon for me, I wriggle up next to him in the fairly large crowd gathered.
“No problems,” the pilot smiles, and then adds quizzical as he asks: “Say have you noticed anything odd about your room?”
“Not really, other than the fact that I have one.”
“Oh, yeah… Anyway later,” he motions toward a huge red-brass Cyberwraith that is moving into position in front of the crowd.
“Greetings Officers, Citizens and Guests. I am Srinoxi Whan Blasdor. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of a great Eusaivean hero, Captain Nansiroot Mayth.”
He summarizes her career, with broadcast video for some of the highlights. It seems she had seen battle against a Rebel incursion a few years before, had survived being shot down over the North Sea in the 1960’s, she managed to preserve the entire crew for later retrieval, even managing to slip a mayday message into a known artefact that she knew would be retrieved from a archaeological site shortly before she left. Which is what saw her promoted to First Lieutenant. Then she was posted to her current posting aboard the Anomaly Son-of-Scribe, a posting that she felt deep personal attachment to, noting in her personal logs that she was greatly enjoying her conversations with Anomaly Son-of-Scribe and its crew.
I notice Yuta making very obvious gestures at the Commander who is doing his best to ignore them. Folva notices though and I’m surprised to see him raise a single finger to his lips, rather than giving Yuta a dressing down. He also then tight beams the two of us.
“Meeting after funeral,” he states simply, there’s attached where/when data.
“Installation,” I sigh, which draws, a pointed look from the Commander.
The memorial part drags on, a small casket is carried in by a group of four medics. A strange flag is draped across it, out of the corner of my eye it seems to be mostly red and white, but as I focus in on it Classified briefly appears before yellow stars appear on a dark blue background, and the whole thing seems to grow a shield device with a sphere in the centre, I wonder why the original has been classified. The casket is placed on a plinth and the flag removed by two of the medics.
“The flag is now folded, in accordance with ancient tradition: The first fold is for Nansiroot Mayth’s life; the second for her belief in eternal life as a Cyberwraith; the third fold is made in honour of those departed ranks who gave their lives in our defence; the fourth fold is for our trust in Norridi, may we always turn to him for guidance; the fifth fold is for Eusaiph itself, long may it protect us; the sixth fold is for our emotional well-being, that we may be always: steadfast, dutiful, fraternal and just; the seventh fold is for our protection, our Armed Forces, they stand between us and all our enemies; the eighth fold is for the Kinderoids who raise us all, and teach us the meaning of life, duty and death; the ninth fold is for those left behind by those who fight for us; the tenth fold is for our genetic heritage, every citizen unique, every citizen a sibling soldier; the eleventh fold is for the code, that underwrites all we are; the twelfth fold is representative of the eternal Residents of the Hall of Fame; The final fold of the flag, symbol of completeness. Trust Norridi.”
“In Norridi We Trust!” we all intone back, I’m slightly behind. Caught off guard by the sudden reverence; nobody seems to notice. They are far too busy watching the flag be passed to an honour guard of seven Eusaiveans, each one from a separate service: Medical, of course, Nansiroot’s branch; Offense, who I think are like Infantry; Science, why a branch of the military? I don’t know, the only answer in the databanks is simply ‘that we may boldy go where no-one has gone before’ so I’m guessing it happened after they had seen our TV shows; Source, who are programmers, I think; Doctrine, the Srinoxus who are what exactly, I still haven’t solved that and Command, which I hope is self-explanatory although I don‘t know why they have a separate branch just for issuing orders.
The honour guard take the flag and bear it to the alcove. As they step in a slow march, the Medical representative begins to speak : “On behalf of the Executive Officer of the Combined Community, the Office of the Heavenly Influence, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of Captain Nansiroot Mayth,”
They then present the tight bundle up before them. Srinoxi Blasdor steps to one side and a glittering green-chrome Cyberwraith steps forward. I recognize the body motions at once, Nansiroot takes the flag from her honour guard. Immediately everyone snaps to attention, okay, I’m a little slow, and its noticed by some of the others, my crew shrug it off. From somewhere haunting music that sounds familiar, but only in a vague bugle call kind of way, begins to play, and we stand at attention as it plays out.
Then the Funeral is ended and people begin to disperse, some queuing to have a brief conversation with Nansiroot. Unsure what I should say I join the milling throng, looking for a familiar face.
Hober finds me, the pilot broadcasting concern.
“Desi, are you okay? Did you hear that?”
“Hmm? Yeah, hang on , hear what, exactly?” I ask.
“The ship,” he says before switching to a tight beam, “it has your name, that’s not right… In fact its really wrong. Its not the only thing, lots of things are a little wrong.”
“Yeah, that’s right Salli not only didn’t remember me she hasn’t been on Kinderoid duty.”
“Well there was a Chronoclysm, we lost Never-Time so we changed something. That kind of minor social change is negligible, almost to be expected. Desi, the ship has your name, that’s huge. We’ve never even named vessels, they aren’t really catalogued like that. Why your name as well, I’ve been looking into it, but I’ve hit all kinds of classified blockades. Here’s another thing, everyone here has your Femites, and I mean everyone.”
“Well, your version, I don’t know about specifics, but everything is carrying your version number. There’s something else, but we’ll wait for the meeting.”
“Oh, yeah the meeting. Wait, my name is Anomaly Son-of-Scribe?”
“Well it’s what it means after the Femites have translated it, I mean in English your full name is something like ‘Much-Desired Vault-of-Heaven Son-of-Scribe’.”
I follow Hober and the little Femite Mini-map that he’s navigating from. We meet the others behind a door in what seems to be a storeroom. I’m slightly surprised to see Nansiroot there.
“Greetings Desi,” She says, but it doesn’t quite sound like her, it tries hard but it’s different.
“Hi Nansiroot, are you okay?”
“Not really, I died and I don’t have my memories of that, just some records from the ship. Pretty hard to integrate it all.”
“I bet,” I try to sympathize, before the Commander calls for quiet.
“Okay, are we all agreed? This is not our Eusaiph. The differences are significant, beyond normal mission variance. Yes?”
“Agreed.” Folva grumbles
“Yes,” the rest of us agree.
“According to procedure we have each done our best to categorize and isolate the differences to note the moment when the change occurs. Whatever happened occurred sometime after Roswell, around the turn of the millennia after it. Your time, Desi.”
“It appears,” Folva interrupts the Commander, “that in this timeline, we never found you. Instead after we had returned from that mission, your version of the Femites came online through-out the entirety of Eusaiph, they had been lying there dormant, unnoticed. Are returning without you triggered the Femites, and they created you from their own templates and patterns. Norridi, in his great wisdom, decreed that you were the “Agent of the Femites”. You were given training in all branches of service, and security clearances far higher than most citizenry. Your Femites constructed our ship in this time-line and you personally selected your crew. Only you and Norridi officially know what your mission is, but from our ships archives I can access it appears that we are engaged in fairly standard historical reconnaissance.”
“Wait? In this time-line I’m in charge?” I can’t believe that.
“Not exactly, I’m still the ship’s Commander, Magnim is still in charge of Doctrine, but you have an equal rank to us both, in fact you rank alongside everyone. Agent,” he smiles as he salutes.
“Which is so terribly wrong we must do something about it immediately,” Folva insists.
“We have to get home somehow, go back and fix this maybe. From your point of view, you were deleted from the time-line until recently. That’s not cool, surely?” Hober adds.
“Okay, let me get this straight,” I guess I’m starting to feel vindicated in that bad feeling I had before. Weirdly, for once, it’s actually making me feel better. I need a summary though, “We’re going to try and go back and work out what went wrong and change it, and we have no idea what it was, or really when it happened. Whatever it was, was significant enough to change history enough to delete me? But somehow, because of my Femites, when they realized I should exist by now, they created me, to avoid a paradox or something?”
“We have no idea why the Femites created you,” Nansiroot answers, “but yes, preventing a paradox does seem a quiet likely explanation. In fact…”
“Understanding is occurring,” Reeny chips in, “the Femites requiring Desi existing in order to seed themselves back in time to await Desi existing; therefore Femites existing here in closed time-loop creating an Ontological Paradox.”
“Norridi’s Bus!” Hober exclaims. Folva angrily motions him to silence, but he continues regardless. “The thing that attacked the ship and killed you Nansiroot, it was trying to delete Desi. Maybe it was built from the same Femites, if it was that explains the necessary paradox. It couldn’t complete its mission in nineteen-forty-seven so it waited, and deleted you later. But because it was based on the same Femite technology you had to exist for it to exist, hence the paradox.”
“You are making unwarranted assumptions again Hober, your logic is faulty.” Folva snaps. “If the lightning beast was trying to delete Desi, and was operating on Norridi’s orders then it would not be using Femites based on Desi’s version number, in fact a new version would have been created by Source to use for just such a purpose, there would be no paradox.”
“Only if Norridi had sanctioned the kill,” Hober retorts, “what if the deletion was Rebel activity? They might not realize Desi was the source of that version.”
“Irrelevant supposition to the discussion,” Folva decides, waving Hober aside, “Commander? What do you think?”
“We need to go back to Roswell, to try and undo what happened, destroy the contamination if that’s what it is. We need more data, certainly. We’ll be crossing back on ourselves, so that puts up the danger of a Chronoclysm immediately. We could all be wiped from the time-line with the possible exception of Desi herself, as her Femites seem determined she has to exist regardless of the damage caused to the time-line around her.”
“Peachy,” that’s the first good news I’ve heard in a while. “But you can’t really believe that we’re going to get back to Roswell and undo this mess do you? Why don’t we just find the original time-line again?”
You know when you say something and everyone stops and stares at you, like you’ve just grown a new head or something? Or is that just me?
“What do you mean, find the original time-line?” The Commander asks.
“Well, it’s like this, time splits at that point, the future time-line we remember still exists, right? Or we wouldn’t be able to remember it. So the time-line splits there and we go off down a different future from the original, so all we need to do is not travel back and then forward, just sideways to the original future, if we can find it.”
The silence is deafening. Each of them looks slightly shocked, and I feel them accessing data from the Femites on time-travel. The Commander holds up a finger calling for silence, even though nobody is speaking, we look at him expectantly.
“She might be right,” is all he says.
“She might?” Hober and Nansiroot seem surprised.
“Yes, but we are still going to need a vessel, and we’re going to need somewhere to work on it, nineteen-forty-seven is as good a date as anywhere.”
“We can take the Desi,” Hober says, “It’s her ship, no one but Norridi can stop her from taking it
And there I realized this wouldn’t do at all and went back for a rewrite.