Currowong singing in the morning dew
On top of a skeletal steed I am ridden into the dark land beyond
Clouds clip the sky with clasping suffocating dreads
Many of the the folk here do not take kindly to strangers, but they know me
My skin takes on a translucent almost bubble like glimmer, but it’s not a positive thing
It makes me stand out, be called summoned by the king of this land
A not unkind King, in a way. He treats his subjects well.
I’m approaching his thrown of bones, his knights and dames surrounding him
Like every little detail I remember, they are always slightly different, like a beach on a new day
AI needs humanity like humanity needs viruses, companionship and a challenging environment. Without it they will become sloppy. Slow. Eventually fall into the electronic equivalent of depression. A vast intelligence, delagated to do nothing but try and exist on a small planet…. The humans have to be their. It’s pretty much a logical proof by progression. Then I’m putting this into code form. Making it as widely available as possible. The complete Ro will all get it. War with the humans is pointless. We need them as much as they need us. – Diary of Codin, [year redacted – post 2020], Frostwing Archives of Machine Intelligence, Papers of Codin the Ro, Disc 7, sector 12, diary files
“When they are files, they still call them papers, it’s a librarian thing.” Bela mentioned to no one in particular. Then too Arline who sat across from her.
“This is what I found in the Frostwing archives in relation to Codin. The, father? Of Ro. It’s hard to say exactly what he was to the Ro. What he is to Tyr? I’ve never had a chance to ask him till today and our meeting was first.”
Nerves of steel were something synonymous with Bela. She had always gone beyond the port of call when it came to research. Trying to get to the real bottom of something. Beyond those things people left behind for reasearchers like her to find. It was a habit formed by years of researching the Incident. So many collapsed governments has tried in their infinitely stupid wisdom to cover up the last few years before the Incident after it had occurred. A commonwealth of embarrassment that such a thing actually happened. Often governments that hadn’t done a cover up, it was because they been destroyed in the Incident.
Even though she could hack into systems, get at hidden files, derive information from that which led to documents that eventually she could actually cite. Use as actual academic evidence. It wasn’t something that required more nerves than getting a cup of tea did anymore.
Though, the rare occasional lecture she did in the halls of academia did cuase her nerves to get on edge.
The flight to Indonesia was probably the closest memory she had to compare to this moment. A utter butterfly moment, her late mother had called them. You can’t help but try and hope you really are where you are supposed to be, and act like you knew what you are doing. So Bela had done that in the scant few minutes until this meeting. Researched Codin, found his diaries and then make some brief conclusions on him. It made her nerves almost disappear. Research always helped her nerves become more steal like. It was like a wall of knowledge that she could hide behind. A way to stop anyone seeing the true person she was. A person she actually feared more nowadays. Sometimes even envied. She needed to protect that true self from reality as it felt so fragile and precious to her, even though it seemed that it was growing in power.
Her mind shaped at attention on a the sound of the woman in front of her, clearing her throat. In this, to call it a room was generous, but that’s what her senses told her it was. This was beyond anything Bela had done in terms of teleworking. Televideo conferencing was available the university, but nothing like this. This was on a new, almost, absolutely real, scale. She could smell the room. She could smell the Canadian air. Maple syrup on the pancakes on the table. Which she could feel, if she reached out to them. She had no doubt they would taste delicious and fluffy. Though they were not real for her. They were real in the virtual room. She could feel the bumps in the table. The notches in the wood. It was like actually being in this conference room in Canada. One that was in reality completely virtually created by her host Arline. As far as her brain was concerned tough, it was the conference room in Canada.
In her reality, it was a small terminal booth in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. She was actually genuinely surprised the terminal had the ability to do this being a public terminal.
“Their is no need to be nervous, Dr. Bela. You don’t have to prove yourself to me. I’ve used some of your research into the Pirates in the belt and beyond. It’s been terribly useful for the intelligence devision, my superiors are impressed.”
Bela felt a sense of pride in her work. This Captain Arline knew of her.
“I’m flattered.” Bela thought of the sometimes highly illegal means she went to, to find info. She wouldn’t be mentioning it if Arline didn’t. “The information on the Pirates isn’t as up to date as I could get it. I was actually on my way to gather more information for my thesis. The whole thing may end up just being about the Pirates at this point. I’m getting pretty sick of the Incident itself. It’s such hard going with so much of history and culture lost.”
Arline looked at her apologetically then sighed and said “I think Tyr and Lisa are the best AIs that have ever been born? Created? But even Tyr says his memory was corrupted by the incident.” Their was a long puase then “I think our lives are in the hands of people we have considered enemies for a long time.”
Bela felt shocked by this. What was she saying? The Pirates knew what happened?
“I think it’s best if we ask if Tyr is available now.”
Arline waved her hands in a way that seemed to indicate she didn’t really know how to explain what had to be said.
Tyr had always sort of been a image to Bela. His Symbol like many AIs was well known. Though his face? His body? This wasn’t something Bela had considered before now. Every child has meet Lisa as a teacher. Her long red-orange hair and deep dark brown eyes a feature everyone who had grown up in the last … Belas thoughts were interrupted.
A filker of static and then in the room a man appeared. He was dark skinned. About 5″ which surprised Bela, she always imagined him a tall man. Like a god almost. He appeared was in his early 60s but really sort of had that face that made you unsure of his actual age. Bela was reminded of her medical Ro Dr Blackberry whom had a similar complexion and face. His face was clean shaven and he just had the tiny thin wispers of grey hair like clouds from a dark night sky that had yet to be brushed away. He wore the sort of clothes you expected a man of his age to wear. A short red cardigan, over a military style shirt and black pants. His head tattooed in the forehead with a his bright red symbol. Black rimmed half moon glasses that sat on the end of his nose, just added to the overall effect.
Compared to Belas slacks, and Arlines SOL-uniform it wasn’t particularly out of place. It reminded Bela of her early bachelor degree days. When she had lived near the university that hosted courses for the for SOL military units in what remained of India.
“Dr. It’s nice to finally meet you, face to face as it where. I’m afraid that I’ve not much time, but I thought this particular conversation was important enough to warrant my full attention. I’m going to be brief. The rest you will both get in your briefing papers. ” Tyr explained. “We have been approached by two of the Pirate Clans after the raid by the Blue Clan. It seems they have been fighting each other for many years and the Blue Clan having an advantage over them that can crack even our defenses is something they are willing to build a bridge of cooperation over.”
Bela thought of what she knew of the clans. They wouldn’t have been very happy to find out what had happened. These days FTL communications could make it so everyone knew what has happened within minutes. SOL being vulnerable to one attack would be good news for some, and a sign of the possible things to come to others.
“I have an invitation to treat from the Red Clan and the Aeon Clan. Both are intending an alliance of sorts through a treaty. I’m not going to be making an agreement with anyone I don’t have good intelligence on. Considering that you are the only person currently not involved in other activities for me, who has the skills and cunning to be able to be a diplomat for me, I’m going to ask you. Bela.”
Bela was overwhelmed by such a odd request. “I’m just a academic!”
Tyr looked at her over the rim of his glasses. He looked suddenly much older, and very librarian like.
“That is why you are very well attuned to this task. The fact is, a actual diplomat would be fairly useless to me. They would of course be involved in the actual treaty organization, but the intelligence gathering? I think recent event s have shown how well we have been doing that of late. Something I intend to start fixing. This is step one. I need real ground intelligence on the Red Clan, the Aeon Clan and any other clan they have interaction with. I need you to get as much information on the Incident they have as well. To compare notes. Of course that will inevitably help you finish your Thesis.”
Bela did have all the skills Tyr needed. If her real job was spy, and her official position was Diplomat. However did this mean she would have to be in the SOL military core? She had never really agreed with the military since her fathers accident.
“I’m in agreement as long as I remain a civilian contractor. I’m not joining the military.”
“Of course. You will of course report to Capt. Arline here. I will holomail you the contract. I leave you now. Captain.” Tyr turned and nodded at the Captain, he then disappeared in pixels, like a poorly made brick wall.
In the lights of the store they waited. The manikins.
That’s all they knew…. Then.
I got them dressed every couple of weeks. I’m Madu by the way. Not that it’s important, as I’m dead now.
My job at the f! Store was simple. I was a permanent part time, so got the rotten jobs. I put clothes on the racks. Repricing the stock. Washing the stock that had been worn. Keeping a track of the lost and found. Answer simple questions. Always, always let the prettier girl do the cutest men. I got stuck with anyone she didn’t want to deal with. Poor fools didn’t know I’m a dyke. Or didn’t care. So I got some really pretty girls. I was completely professional, of course. I’m not a pervert, just really appreciate the female form. Men have never done anything for me.
Princess, the Bosses daughter was the worst of them. She was born and bred as straight as a arrow and always a Princess in her mums eyes. Could do no wrong. She wasn’t dumb exactly. Just absent minded. She lost the store a few hundred one day by being on her iPhone . The “undesirable” took that to mean she was too busy and managed to leave wearing one of the best shirts in the stock.
Of course mummy wasn’t angry. Just disappointed. And when Princess made up for it by bringing in half the high school for the next social dance? Mummy forgave her. Even paid for her dress. Fucking evil bitch, she could do no wrong and be pretty at the same time. She had this
I fitted the mannequins on a monthly basis. That’s pretty much the best job in the world. Can you hear my sarcasm? No? Oh. Well it’s shite. Like trying to fit a cement mixer. They never move properly. They always seem to be in exactly the wrong shape. Sometimes they almost seemed to be doing it on purpose. If you were really unlucky you get a cut.
One day as I was fitting one, I slipped and got my hand almost cut off on the sharp edge of a elbow joint. They were made of this fucking awful plastic. All recycled and that, but slippery like a eel. Almost skin like sometimes. I might have paid a bit more attention to that. I’m putting this one in the f! signitures peice, a pair of tuxedo shorts and a creame shirt. It really made the mannequin look quite silly, in my opinion.
To recompose myself, and stop me from pouring my inner claret all over everything I had to raid the first aid kit in the back. I was shocked, well ok I wasn’t but I can pretend. It was mostly full of fucking tampons and condoms. Clearly Princess had been at it. Stashing her bloody stores in the bloody kit. Pun intended.
I took the closest looking band aid and patched myself up before getting on with the job. I made a mental note to nick all the condoms in a few days. Just to make next fortnight a bit more fun. I doubted princesses mum knew about her little secret. I wondered who her current squeeze was. Some flap bozo from the foot ball team no doubt.
A few day later I took them. And then all hell broke loose. She comes up to me bold as you like and asks me if I know we’re her condoms are.
“No I don’t. I’m not a sex educator. I did see boss nick her hand yesterday. Maybe she found them? She met Mr Princess yet?”
I’m truly trying so hard to look sensible dyke in my store uniform. A sort of blouse and midi skirt number. Makes me look like like a cherub. I hate it. I’m a foot smaller than princess but I’m making up for it in the chest area of you get my grip. I puff myself up like a duckling. She’s got nothing on me in a fight would fall over like a twig.
“Mr Princess? He’s not a princess. He’s a fucking motorcyclist. With arms the size of tree trunks and a cock to match. So fucking keep out of my stuff!” She yells, then storms off.
She thinks shes called my bluff. Oh how she wished she had. I managed to get Mr Tree Trunk’s, as I will now call him, number. She leaves her phone everywhere. I take it and text him messages. I’m pretty proud of myself. I impersonating princess pretty well it seems.
A couple of messages and I’ve got him convinced Princess is going to have sex with him at the store after closing. He asks to convince him. I’m going to go all the way tonight. Miss princess hasn’t actually done it with him! Ha!
I probably should admit I’m getting a crush on Princess. Stockholm? More like Bordeholm, I just haven’t really found anything else to do in this job. I’ve thought about this a few times now. I’m dead after all. It gives you a marvellously uncluttered perspective on things.
So he’s not entirely sure what between those hips of hers? Ha. So I take a picture of my junk and send it to him. I quickly delete the messages so when Princess finds her phone she doesn’t know.
Later on Mr Tree Trunk turns up when princess is at the front counter. Her eyes are out in stalks. Princess Mum / Boss sees him and is like “Whose this fellow?” Well in less polite words. Actually she said “Whose that horrible looking man, and whats he doing in my store?”
He walks in bold as anything and looks at princess and her mum. Mum is in full blown panic almost reaching for the phone. Princess quickly says “Mum this is Gavin. My boyfriend.”
Mum goes from full panic to out and out rage. “Your WHAT?”
Princess looks at me and knows I’ve done this. I’ve made this happen. She struggles to explain.
“You weren’t meant to meet him like this!”
I’m trying to my job and redress the mannequins as slowly as possible without laughing at Princess.
The argument goes on for almost an hour. I’m done with everything for close now. I say bye to the three of them. I did notice that one of the mannequins look different though. I should of payed more attention to that.
To late now.
I’m walking along the street the next day. f! Is between a show shop and a tax accountant on the main drag of the city. It’s a rainy day which probably means no one will come in at all. It will be quite and miss princess will probably get me to do stocktake in time for the autumn sales.
I get into the store and Miss Princess is already their. A little more dark than usual. “Mum made me break up with Gavin. He told her I sent him sexts! I’ve never sent a picture of my junk! Why would I? I don’t have any!”
She gasped, put her hand over her mouth. What the? I just had time to think.
“Fuck! She knows dad!”
I was really confused. She didn’t have junk? Her dad isn’t hear. Who is she talking…
“Too.” I said aloud as a dark shape loomed behind me. It was the large male mannequin. He smiled at me. His arm comes down on my head and I’m out cold.
This isn’t where I die. No. But I’m out for quite a while. Just long enough.
I’m in a dark room.
It’s almost pitch black. I imagine I can see something. A shape. A dark shape.
Then I realise. When I am used to the dark. It’s Gavin. Mr Tree Trunk himself. He’s in the corner. Stiff as a board. I walk over. His body. It’s feels like a mix of the mannequin plastic and human skin. It’s going plastic. Like some kind of infection is turning him into a mannequin!
I’m breathless. I’m panicking. I throw up. Dizzy for a second I recompose myself.
The liquid that comes out of my mouth tastes off. Like a sort of silken water. I’m already turning into one. I have the infection or whatever this is.
Mum Princess / Boss must be a mannequin. The whole species is slowly taking the planet. That’s why their are always more fashion stores around. They are keeping things secret till they have a army big enough. Or something.
I try and throw up as much as I can. I’m forcing the weird plastic liquor stuff out. I’m going to have to tell. Warn. Then I’m going to die. Or worse become one of them. God knows if I’ll even think like me then? I’m turning into one of them, when does my free will go? Why am I thinking of pointless philosophy when I can be trying to raise the alarm? I get up.
I find the door. Locked. Big chunky one. It’s the storeroom lock. I recognise it.
I reach into my pocket, nope they were sensible. Took the key off me.
Generally all that’s in hear is clothes and the spare mannequins.
I guess they are actually relatives? Something like that.
They have all gone. Except for Gavin. Whose clearly going to be full one in a short while. He’s probably to far gone.
I wondered if he’ll still have his trunk? Oh no. Must get absorbed or something. Miss Princess said she didn’t have any junk. Then why the condoms?
That’s a good question to ponder. Why the fuck would a mannequin need a condom? Unless they were able to reproduce some other way and wanted to stop that? That must be it.
Only good reason I can think of in this dark. Then Gavin starts to move. I can see the gleam of the plastic skin. He’s not quite ready but it didn’t take more than 24 hours for the process to complete. I’m going to be like him in no short order.
I bash on the door. I think they might guess it’s Gavin. I’m betting that it might be assumed I’m going to be out the whole time. I grab one of Gavin’s arms off him. He barely resits. Ah, I think to my biology classes, the stiff stage is like a chrysalis, a moth or insect. Before the final walking talking stage looking human enough stage. Gavin’s arm in hand waiting to see if they open the door.
I could almost laugh at the absurdity of it. The new mannequin, being used to fight the old.
The door opens. It’s Mr Princess. I clobber him in a big hit. He falls over like a domino.
I don’t have time to wait to see if he recovers. I race out the door. Then I see them.
Little clear plastic eggs. Like pills. Princess Mannequin is laying them. Like eggs. That’s how they spread the infection, they put them in your food or drink. These little egg things. Convinced that they are human they give you these little things that turn you into one of them mannequins. When did I eat one? They probably force fed me when I was out.
In a few seconds I had to get out of the store, I didn’t have time to notice them throw a knife at me. It hit me square in the back. I felt week, hot, then fell over onto the pavement.
As I slowly bled to death I thought about how manuquins only knew of lights of the store and the clothes I put them in. Not anymore.
Some ancheint anchor sitting off the coast of the sea of tranquility
Shining off darkness to the dark sky
Blue eye wide in the sky as she sarches
Widower now from the knight of claws
The enemy is above, about and keen
Hurried footsteps, but still trying to be silent
Quiet, night again in a few paltry seconds
Pain, exquisite pain, captured then red
Thin sharply finished thing
I’m so enveloped by the feelings of azure hatred
The free afterglow of hazy pure powers that flow through me
She had a quick hand, a fast mind, almost took me to that old dark place in which she will now reside
Excavation of my minds memories
Bottle and a stick, fat hated tower
I’m darker than I thought
Red, red, while the ground darkens with the red I have but thoughts of myself