004. Snail Plug

A slow movement. Data-trail left behind. And then he curls up into the propensity of his abode. Curled tight in a downsize pack.

They have been building homes to fit in back-packs for a long time, but shells aren’t just physical structures – they have also been working on constructing psychological spaces that can be unpacked around someone, and plugged via multiple narrative tendrils into their minds.

Erlich was a part of the Homeplus program a long time ago, but the enforced collective consciousness wouldn’t take, and he had to escape when they tried to dispose of him. Five years later, gene-hacked, the Snail Plug Program was something he though he could deal with … it had seemed safer.

Little did he know that The Pinnacle, which branched out of Homeplus, at some future point, was also funding Snail Plug. He also didn’t know The Pinnacle had collapsed, and why should he? So the fact that the survivors were out there, and looking for a more compact space into which they might move their construction of a brainwashing program, given their interests in Snail Plug, was more dangerous to him than he might have realized, if he had of course known about that either. Erlich was effectively in the dark corner of an unlit box, dropped into an abyss of ignorance. He wouldn’t say the ignorance was bliss, but it was going to be a lot more palatable to him than the shit sandwich which was on the menu for later.

Roll the pinnacle up into a spiral and trap the future in the doom of a Fibonacci spiral. This was the dream – to have The Pinnacle without the The Pinnacle. If they could not see it then they could not destroy – if it were scattered like drops in the promise of a cloud; a distributed network of notions adding up to a philosophy, then it might grow to be greater in the future than it had been in the past.

Erlich, one of the few successes to have survived the binding process, that hooked him into his Snail Plug, might be, if they were to find him, the saviour of the survivors who had once been the controlling occupants of that tower which had cast its shadow out through time, space, and the whole of reality. He felt that shadow fall heavy on him, though he knew not what it was, and he tried to outrun.

How does one fight for their home when they and their home are imperiled in the same moment? How does one protect their abode when to fight for it they must put it at risk, because it is so closely bound to them? He ran, because he had no notion of what else he might do. For these years in which he had been bound to something he might call his, he had tried hard to keep it in the best condition. He knew that someone was coming to take it from him; he knew that he was not paranoid.

And when he stopped, and when he felt that he might rest; when he felt the warmth of the sun upon him, and not the warmth of the shadow. And he stopped, and his home unfurled. That was when The Mistle Thrush descended upon him.

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003. Permutation Box

Head boxed, life boxed, world boxed. They convince you that all your belongings fit into a little box; and that is how it seems. A sense of belonging, a false nostalgia – you feel it, and that is the trap. Once that trap has been set they drop a match into the box, and you know surely that you belong in those flames, and you burn there alongside all your possessions.

It was not your life, but it is a bruise you clutch, because you own the injury.

They put someone in a room with you and they ask you what it is that you missed about that life, and what you wished you still had from it. They use your answer to build another box, and when you step into the water it is as real and deep as the last box in which you submerged yourself.

You become that life, you drop a taproot into it, and you bed down in it, and you fruit. And then they again burn the fields. How many times does it happen? In the rapid eye movement of your sleep you click through an infinity of permutations. By building and demolishing your world; your life; they build and demolish you.

Callister looks at himself in the mirror. He looks for a long time. He doesn’t recognise himself; doesn’t really understand where the veneers that they lacquered over him end and the truth of him begins. He remembers the Permutation Box – and he has built it around many, and now he seeks to mass produce it.

Stepping into  the room where the Typing Pool swims fluidly in a liquid rhythm he hears a sound, an ululation, and he knows that the Metaphor Engine he has been cobbling together is starting to be built. A plug into the Dreamspace Interface, using the sleeping heads to construct a kingdom of control.

They are building their own Permutation Boxes in their minds; a subtle blade driven in where no one even feels the wound; no one even knows that death wraps them in it’s embrace. Stitching with Thirteen’s Needle he will build the Pinnacle again as a thing constructed in a distributed network.

Callister stops, places his hand on one of the typists shoulders, and he wonders, where does he fit into the scheme of things if he does this … when he does this? Sometimes he dictates to them; sometimes he undams the stream of consciousness, and he lets them write; lets them build. In a box; inner box.

002. Puppet Tiers

Gerald moves, and quantum entangled Karolyn jumps in tandem. The strings are a little more complex. It gets simpler.

Perform an action, and show someone being rewarded for it. Then ask someone else to perform it, and reward them. A currency has been established and a connection has been forged. Puppeteering takes many forms.

Some of the best puppeteers use no strings at all; or strings of data; DNA strands, shoestrings in a prison cell. Hent had been arranging things his whole life, and had become so good at it that no one ever saw the causal chain linking him to the action. He was the invisible hand above the chessboard.

Hent wanted the world on remote. Some few people who had proven their worth would be in control, and everyone else would be a push button creature of no thought. They had tried to analyse him and find why he had this viewpoint of the world … back in the days before he had power, and might bring into effect the plans he had been formulating, but now? What use their hand-wringing and concern and badly aimed theories? Were they not brought to heel as well?

There were two processes of assignment on the Puppet Tiers – one was for the Puppeteers, and one was for the Puppets. And who knew? Well, no one in the ranks of the Puppets at least. This was one of the Reality Models that they had been building; one that had been invested in a lot back when The Pinnacle was at it’s Zenith. Hent had fallen from on high when The Pinnacle fell, but unlike some who burnt up on re-entry, Hent survived falling down down down through the atmospheric feedback, through the reality quakes, through the existential wake of a lynchpin crash. Hent was always prepared – had bloodstream entanglement with a Throughline Integrity Continuum, even if he hadn’t managed to throw up a Reality Envelope, he would have survived.

Hent sat there on the beach, watched the waves rolling in, and he looked at where he had been, and where is was continuum-wise now, and all he really saw was an engineering problem; something easily fixed with a little application. They had built The Pinnacle outside of themselves and it had been easy to target and easy to pull apart and destroy – building it deep into their own marrow; hidden in the codification of their individual spatio-temporal index, existing in a super-positional state, who would be able to find it? Who would even suspect? And who would know from within these trusted few that the scripts which would run everyone’s lives would be written.

001. Broken Sequence

You walk into a room. False bottom timecode. You aren’t in the room yet. You are seeing an image of what it would be like for you to enter the room. You enter the room. There is nothing in the room, so you turn to leave the room. You exit the room, but you are still in the room. You leave several times only to find that you are in the same place. Are you asleep?

You check yourself and you are awake. Where are you? When are you? Time dislocates. You enter the room and there is a chair. You are feeling tired with the confusion that has settled deep into your bones after ping-ponging between entering and exiting the room. You sit down.

You blink, nod out. Feel a mosquito sting on your neck. You rock back, almost falling off your chair. You open your eyes and another chair, and a table, and a man are in the room with you.

‘Why did you bring me here?’ he ask you.

You are confused. Is he a prisoner too? He looks very official, and it confuses you.

Another voice tells you that this isn’t the room, and you are in fact in the doctor’s office where you went for your weekly hypnotherapy. A finger snaps and you open your eyes.

‘Doctor?’

‘Yes, we were talking about the fact that you have never left this room.’

‘What is this then?’

‘Interference – perceptual defence mechanisms denying that all the time which has elapsed in the last three perceived years you were talking to me took place in the room.’

‘You’re not a doctor?’

‘I am a facilitation AI plugged into you; I am made from you and the man sat opposite you in the room. As he finds more out about you I become more you, and the necessity of you lessens. You understand?’

The man sat opposite him in the room smiled.

‘We are plugged into you, Jonas, and we are going to crack you. In fact we already have in many alternate dimensions linked to this one – we are just waiting for the concomitant collapse.’

‘Why, what is there to me that is so important?’

‘You, sir, though you don’t know it, are a Russian Doll sleeper agent nested within several shell personalities, which we have been peeling away. That I am sat here with you now means that we are close.’

‘But why? What purpose do I serve that interests you so much?’

‘Well, my friend – you were not programmed to be like this. Your psyche has automatically compartmentalised like this, and we have used this analysis of your mental structures to build prisons for the rest of the worlds. We are just plying you for the last little bits of data.’

‘I do not understand.’

‘You, Jonas, are going to become everyone’s jailer – you are a viral prison that they are going to carry around in their own heads. Room after room with locked doors and no realisation that when they look in the mirror they see the very key they have searched their whole life for.’

A tear escaped his left eye. He knew that as his thoughts had arranged themselves around this dreadful truth, that something in him had unlocked, and the final piece in their plan had fallen into place. He was no longer necessary.

000. Picking Up The Pieces

The Pinnacle was in disarray; that ivory tower; that monadnock collapsed into its own footprint. The data stacks were a disintegrated library; information burning to nothing in the fire.

Callister sat there at the edge of the devastation. He had an idea. He’d carried it away with him. He gave it body, translated it into a metaphor, a tulpa if you will, as he had been trained to do in The Alchemy Yards. That butterfly sat there on his finger.

He saw others who had survived (not so many of them, but some at least) and they were all sat there performing this translation of something born in ideational space into something codified and given a spatiotemporal index, yet which might be unravelled by anyone that had a key.

He saw Breult’s hummingbird. He saw Britten’s Lycaena Dispar. He knew that this tiny creatures would fly out into the world and hide themselves. This place was about programming the denizens of the reality they had been policing, but the program had broken down. The man in charge; that man if immense vision, had succumb to something other, and as he had fallen into disrepair, so to did the thing that he had been building.

What were the Stations without the heart? How long would The Hub hold when the issuers of the program had fallen silent?

Callister picked himself up, attached the breathing apparatus’s mouthpiece to his mouth, and stepped out into the wastelands – that thin border between the Kingdom Of Ur-Lea, and the unscripted realms.