Thursday, February 28, 2013

29 - Moaning Like A Milari Wooden Horn

Terry wasn’t certain what he expected but what he got was... well... not much of anything.  His screens didn’t change.  There wasn’t any kind of physical reaction that he could feel.  His timer clicked and reminded him that his shift was over and he should get something to eat.

He yawned enormously.  Perhaps a nap first might be in order.  He yawned again and didn’t remember reaching his bed.


...dreams... or am I dreaming? I’m... learning?  What?  What is that? A planet zoomed up close to his face as he almost flinched, in response to his question. I don’t understand.  What is a planetary nebula? I don’t understand. Terraforming... What’s that?

My head has been peeled open and my own questions are showing the gaping holes in what I know.  I have to ask back.  What is this? What does that mean? How was that discovered? Why? What? How?  And occasionally who?

Colours I had no names for. Places I had no idea existed. People, not just the few millions on Xanadu but hundreds of millions, billions, as many people as are grains of sand and their faces fly by my dreaming eyes.

Dead ends of questions that I just had to abandon because the start of it was nonsense.  Fusion? Space-Time Warp? Alcu-was that a name?  I got a phonetic spelling of it.  It was a name. Animals.  Earthen animals, animals identified as other planet’s fauna.  I realize what the word fauna means and it’s root.  Why didn’t I know there my language rose from?

Flowers.  Fruit.  Exploding fruit and trees covered with thorns. Mother’s face. The structure of human skin. Structure of chishik fauna tegument. Muscles of the human smile. Bush Dragon wing evolution. Perfume. How it’s made. Moby Dick.  Mobies on Ishmael. Planet Ishmael.  Sea-faring human culture, clash and resolution with sentient Mobies. Blackmarket in sentient Mobies.

Corporate Space. Kingdom, San, NeoBejing, Sacred Ball of Rock, Chat Chapeau, Steinpelz, Church of the Divine Human Form.

Terry woke up, sitting in his bunk, soaked in sweat, gasping “Stop! Stop it! Stop it!  Turn it off! Stop!” And, blessedly, the Font in his head stopped spewing information, images and videos at him.  He felt suddenly, echoingly alone inside his own skull and was able to take a deep breath. “How do I stop it doing that?” he asked the air, plaintively, and froze as he was answered. The words... he could see the words as if they were projected on the wall. He imagined a screen on the wall and one obligingly appeared for him, rather than blazing on the fused moon rock as glowing letters of fire – Christian Holy Book... ‘letters of fire' appearing to King—“STOP!” 

His shout echoed in his bedroom. *Operating System: Subroutine sleep learning mode on full.  Change to ‘light’? Y/N*

“Um... Yes?” he said and the letters blurred away.  *Subroutine change accepted.  Other operating system changes? Y/N*

“No.  Can you quiet things down while I’m asleep... you... machine you?”

*Operating system: Terence Charles Arthur Cameron node 4 trillion 5 million 3 hundred 30 thousand and 5, sleep mode, engaged.*

The screen on his wall went away as if he’d imagined it.  Perhaps he had.  But it was still quiet now.  The inside of his skull felt a bit as though it were the fading phosphor glow of a screen turned off, but that was tolerable.  He slumped back into his pillow and rolled over.  Blinking certainly hadn’t changed.  And he really shouldn’t be afraid to close his eyes.  He could see, behind his eyelids, this doorway.  With a ‘do not disturb’ sign on it in glow in the dark paint.  “Do not Disturb while I’m asleep,” he muttered to himself, caught himself yawning again.  “Good idea.”

Between the gates of his ears he could hear a faint lullaby, soothing, restful.  He slept again.


*RUN... Hara... we can’t outrun those things!*

*Fly then... let the warbirds go!*

Kyrus and Hara kicked loose of their stirrup straps, flung themselves into the sky, with bee-like wings.  As their feet left the riding birds the whole flock fell apart into a faint drift of hair knots and beads and feathers.

The sniffers siphoned up the dirt code and the bits and pieces, honking mournfully as their heads swung side to side, snorting out clouds of dust, looking for them. Kyrus imagined his back muscles straining as his wings lifted him up and away from the sniffers.  Hara was already shrinking in size.  Not because she was so far away from him but because their size in the air would make them conspicuous.
As he concentrated on becoming smaller, a mournful honking rose.  One sniffer was reared up on its hind legs, stretching up toward them.  Toward him, specifically.  They were far enough apart that it was obvious.  It waggled its proboscis back and forth under him, bellowing as if it were a bereft Milari wooden horn, moaning

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

28 - A Flock of Warbirds

Kyrus eased into the owner’s country through the new door that he and Hara had built with such care.  It should be undetectable from the one direction.  The only way he could perceive it was the line Werfas held.  He and Hara grinned... and shook themselves out of the post programming rush.

She nodded at him and they pulled the image of a couple of riding birds out of the ground and settled into the saddles, leather creaking just as it did in the outside world.  The two birds... larger and longer-legged than would be possible in the world, as well as more tractable, rose to their diamond talon feet.

*We should hide in plain sight I think.* He sent to her and she grinned and twitched a thumb behind her.  She’d dropped a handful of what looked like knotted strands of hair with a bead and a feather in it and wherever they touched the ground another warbird... an apparently wild one, sprang up until they were surrounded in a grazing flock.

*Already ahead of you.*

*Sometimes you’re really annoying, lover, do you know that?* But his thought was teasing, not biting.   

She shrugged *So long as somebody thinks ahead.*

They curled up at the base of their bird’s necks, all but disappearing into the flowing feathers.

From there, their flock ran and stopped and ran, ranging out from their door, seeing an kind of sign from their fathers.

*The bees said ‘look for the bee-tree’ but I don’t see anything like that,* Hara said. *These trees are all thinner than my wrist and have these flattened leaves that wouldn’t hold much water at all.*

*Hmmm.  Let me send out a bee or two of my own.*

*Careful, Perrin’s systems--*

*--I know.* He snapped.  *They could be looking for bees.*
Just as he began to form his access bees the dragons came roaring back around on their flight.  One almost checked in its flight, over them, or their door, he couldn’t tell which, and they both clung tight to their bird’s necks, very still.

It swept on, tail lashing in the sky as it flew, head scanning the ground below.  *That was... oh endarken it...*

The ground ahead of them crumbled up as something dug its way out from below and a creature with a nose wider than its head emerged and flattened its enormous nostrils against the dirt, making snorting, farting, sneezing noises as it snuffled back and forth.  A second unburied itself, and a third.

They were as brown as Kyrus; eyeless, hairless except for a pink fringe of it all along those massive noses. Their elbows, tipped with bright yellow spurs, stuck up over their heads as they lowered their round bodies to sniff the ground.  It looked like they had enormously long legs.

Hara unfroze and let the whole flock ‘startle’ and wheel to run, wings half spread, talons kicking up dirt, heads stretched out so they could run faster, feathers crackling in the wind as they ran.  It was an appropriate response for the programs they were.

*Oh ownershit!* *Endarkened!* Their exclamations, though silent, were simultaneous and heartfelt.

They'd looked back in time to see the sniffers snap up to their full height, taller than the oldest warbird, horn-like nostrils spread wide. Honking, the sniffers trotted after the fleeing flock, dirt crushing underfoot as they bounced after them, surreally slow, and terrifyingly fast both at once.


 We just got home with the latest load... moving... in the most hideous weather (rain/snow falling) like driving on glare ice under lard.

I will post later tonight but it will probably be the middle of the night, sorry.  We need to get out of the other place this weekend.  Next week is when the radiation treatments start.  Fun wow.  And I lost another friend, possibly to his cancer, his major organs just shut down.  I am going to miss him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

27 - A Humble Man, A Noble Man

"Terence Charles Arthur Cameron..."

The screen almost quivered with the force of his brother's indignation as he rolled off every one of Terry's given names.

"... if you persist in writing such heretical filth to me I shall have to reluctantly break all communication with a once beloved brother, may the Font of All Knowledge have mercy on your over-reaching, overly curious soul. Do not succumb to the Demons of Impertinence, Intelligensia, Curiosity and Vile Hubris above your station."

...Well, Gerry, you have certainly changed now that you've achieved Manager SSC Tech status...

"Not only are you presuming to recognize the existence of my wife in such a public letter, as if she could or would do such horrific things as reading, or learning.  I did not mention to her delicate sensibilities that you inquired after her.  I am her Keeper and will not allow such horrors near her frail brain.  You threaten her with damnation and mental illness!  How dare you!  To include our sainted mother in your letter was horrific! Their brains might overheat and explode from the sheer assault on their insubstantial and slight intellects!"

"As the heir to the Cameron lands and position of Technician the First, of the Second Class, I must diligently work to protect the family name and skill-set, no matter how unchurched you are and seem to be being led off the garden path by intergalactic demons of knowledge, visions of durance vile, slave to the overwhelming onslaught of information that you are, by birth, forbidden!  We, here, on Xanadu are intensely moral people."

"In sincere concern for your soul, little brother, I abjure you in the strongest of my words.  Do not step outside the knowledge base you have been graciously provided.  Do what you are commanded and leave the more dangerous of the knowledge to your betters, lest you fall into a hell of your own making."

"If I may remind you of one of the verses of our childhood, from the Sainted Daffyd: “To display one’s intelligence is not the mark of a humble man. Don’t be arrogant.  Rubbing someone’s face in their relative smarts is not the position a noble man should take.  Be self-effacing.  Everyone is as everyone does.  To each their place and station in the heavens and God will be happy.  The professor questions everything. The scholar is unhappy because his knowledge hurts him.  He cannot affect it, he can only know it and is helpless in the face of it.  Why cultivate something that makes you feel helpless?”

“It is more comforting and less worrying to merely believe.  Have faith that everything is going as it should and that every man should live his life without having to fight anything!  Knowledge brings strife and contention and disturbs the peace.”

"The Font of All Knowledge has stated, himself, “Hell is knowing and being able to do nothing. Rest content in the amount of knowledge you are allowed to have.”

"And that is my final word on the subject."

... pompous much, big brother?...

In spiritual concern and consternation,

Your brother,



Terry stared at the screen for a long moment.  He paged up and then down again.  It didn’t change the ranting, hateful words on the screen in the slightest and he deleted the copy with a jab sharp enough that he chipped the nail on that finger.

The picture of a cute kitten on the flat-screen he was allowed came up as the letter vanished, with its one icon of ‘Technical Levels and Knowledge allowed for Second Class’ in the corner of the screen.

Siva had showed him the newest computer links.  You didn’t need a box or a screen.  You spoke to the connection in your head... and if you needed external videos you got a hologram on the desk or the table or floating in the air in front of you.  Most of the time people just had things sent straight to their optic receivers... like daydreaming with a purpose.

There was no need for a terminal.  If you were going to compute you might need to sit or lie down while you were inside your head... connected to the computer apparently. Siva's Brainseed was level five.

“And you, my elder Font of Wisdom,” Terry snarled at the kitten picture as if his older brother could hear him.  “You want me to stick to quill pens.  You and that old fart who have it all... I know.  I know that the Heir to a Name gets more information than a mere second son.  You... you pompous hypocrite!”

Siva... before he’d left, had given him a seed.  A flattened bean“If you want to send me a letter sometime off planet.  A message...  Rub that over your hands to warm it up, then swallow it.  It’ll set up the computer connections.”  Then, almost without seeming to realize how subversive he was being, just happened to mention that the Seed I... even though it was only a I... would give him access to the Corporation Library system.  A 2 would have given him access to the University Library systems stretching back to Earthen roots.

Terry pulled the seed out of its box and looked at it.  It looked like a greenish stone.  A little flattened.  It glittered in his palm.

“Yeah,” Siva had said.  “You guys have a greater comp node here, like everyone else, but it takes someone physically coming here to update things.  I mean, that’s my job.  Just my presence in a noded system brings things up to speed with the rest of the galaxy.”

“Would I be able to access the computer node here?”

“Sure... well, maybe.  It depends on what kind of security your CEO’s put on it.  If you try it... build a door for yourself and you should have access to whatever you need... without getting brain-fried.”


“Some idiot over in the Fair Lands Planets put a ‘burning-eye’ security system on things and people’s minds were getting snuffed out.  You know, lights on but nobody home?  The corps police got on that one... it wasn’t covered up and the Home system lawyers came out... the whole United Planets Sentient code of rights hounds.  The whole round of lawsuits are still going on, but at least the Fair Lands computer nodes are public again.

“I... see.”

To be honest, half of what Siva said was just incomprehensible to Terry.  It was the right language, the predominantly old corporate English with Indian subcontinent languages along with a solid smattering of old Russian with Serbo-Croatian thrown in.  It was the San and the Neo Asians that used what they fondly imagined was old Japanese and old Chinese.  But what Siva was saying might as well be gibberish.  Terry knew that he didn't even know enough to formulate the right questions, much less ask them.

He looked at the smugly sleeping kitten on his screen, then to the display that showed the planet turning below him; and the one that showed the shut down garage.  The seed was cool in his hand, then starting to warm up and pulse as he turned it in his fingers.

“... a noble man... stupid and self effacing?”  His mouth twisted in the light from the screen and he snapped the seed into his mouth and swallowed it.

26 - A Letter Home

My dear Brother,

I am writing from the moon because I seem to have a great deal of time on my hands.  Dark that sounds goddamn formal.  Sorry.  Mister Poor’s calligraphy and elocution lessons come back hard when I start a letter, even when I type.  I mean it’s not just a fountain pen or a bloody quill, like the first form had to use.

How’s the family?  You know me, crude enough to ask.  Let the priest’s jaw hit the floor; I want to know if my sister-in-law’s health continues well.

Anyway, my contract here is going to be up in six months, but I’m going crazy up here.  I’ve read everything available for my class and station a dozen times.  Just between you, me, and the button on the airlock door, brother mine, I’m tempted to see if I can get around the limitations on my access... just for something new to read.

I know, I know.  It’s against the rules, it’s against the custom, it’s so rebellious it would make Lecturer Williamson turn red at the idea I might actually presume on the decision of the Font of All Knowledge.  To be honest, Gerry, I have a unique view of the universe up here.  It’s a lot bigger than anything I’ve been told.

The stars are brighter, I have intergalactic friends who are interesting and who aren’t shocked if I show knowledge outside my class.  I want to know more.  I mean, the ceo is already in breach of my contract.  This ‘temporary maintenance shutdown’ isn’t.  Either for maintenance nor its temporary-ness.  My great-great-great granddad swore away any higher learning for our family... for our ancestral manor and lands.... I mean you could do better than 2nd class but there’s only one social rung higher, aside from the Font Himself... him and his family... and his bodyguards.

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t rock the boat like this.  You’re in line to inherit and have to be careful with your family and your children, so make sure they don’t see their wild and out of this world uncle’s subversive words.  It’s the frustration talking... and the loneliness.

I’m lonely up here, with not one co-worker to keep me company.  One shift.  Then nothing.  One.  How on Chishiki are we going to get enough water down there to one day have oceans, if we quit now?


How is the season going?  Have you won many races with your new line of horses?  That gene line from offplanet are fast and flashy, aren’t they?  I bet that birds would be faster... perhaps one year at Monteth you should stage an exhibition race... if you can keep the birds from eating the horses that is!

I’ll be home soon.  I’ll finish my work here and then come down to be the dutiful younger son for the family.

My felicitations to everyone, Mama included even though Father would huff at that.  Take care of yourself.