SciFi story: Judas

I play and run role playing games. One of those games is Eclipse Phase. It’s a sci-fi setting. About 100 years or so in the future when we have just about begun to colonise the solar system. It’s transhumanism. It’s about the singularity. It’s great. 

Tomorrow I will be writing part 3 of The Swimmer but currently it is 3 am so this is all I wrote today for my 1k. It is the first party of my characters backstory. 

 
Judas
 

“This is Captain George C. Westmoreland of the USS Constellation, you have three-hundred seconds left to transmit your real ID, Manifesto, telemetry and actuate automated docking procedures or you will be fired upon. This is your final warning.”

 
“Sir, Please. As we said, our ID is linked to the Neptunian mesh. We are currently requesting a translation that is compatible with your system. We are a small transport vessel carrying geological samples from Proteus to the Argonaut research station in Paris, Earth, we did not know we had violated United States…”
 
“Your place of origin is Xiphos and you have three lifeforms on board your ship, not two. You have 250 seconds left to comply or we will destroy you.” 
 
Lara’s muse said: “SOB’s just cut seventeen seconds off the clock.”
 
Koheim’s muse retorted: “What do you expect, he’s already decided to blow us to hell.”
 
Koheim shouted out: “QUIET. Both of you. Find something, some kind of beaurocratic excuse to stall them, I don’t care what.” 
 
Lara continued to float over the creche, praying. She messaged Koheim as she repeated mantras:
 
<We have to tell them Ko. There are no more options.>
 
Koheim’s hands danced over the haptic controls whilst simultaneously subvocalising commands to the Solomon’s AI. 
 
Lara messaged: <We had a good run Ko.>
 
Koheim’s slammed his fist through the haptic controls, shattering the hologram, feeling the forcefeed back buzz along his wrist. His Remade’s emotional dampeners were straining to contain the swell of conflicting impulses that threatened to break his concentration. 
 
He whispered: “Prep Judas.”
 
Lara’s enhanced hearing easily picked out Koheim’s words. She flipped herself, threading her toes into a hanging net for balance. Head towards the floor she adminstered to the hardwired controls of the cot. Judas, oblivious, continued to paw with his tiny hands at the holographic solar system that revolved above his tiny head. Comets formed each time he touched a planet, eliciting squeels. 
 
When the solar system disappeared Judas began to cry.
 
Lara picked him up carefully, hands through the zero-g-harness. She lied to the baby in whispers, “It’s going to be okay, okay, it’s going to be okay.” 
 
“This is Captain George C. Westmoreland. You have 120 seconds remaining.”
 
<He has a thing for titles doesn’t he? I’m going to need more time than that Ko. Do something.>
 
Koheim activated the ship’s weapon systems. Three long range rail guns emerged from their hidden beds, swiveled in silence and aimed at the distant cruiser. Lara reached the escape pod. She started to arrange the harness. Koheim smoothed down his black uniform, fumbled in a drawer for the discarded medal, and affixed the Order of David to his chest. He grabbed his monofilmant sword and belted on its sheathe, then arranged his face into a snarl. Koheim’s muse said: “I haven’t seen that look in awhile. Reckon you’re about to give that yank a real good scare.” Koheim narrowed his eyes and hooked his feet into the straps on the ground, forcing himself to appear standing in zero-g.
 
“Hail him. Holo.” thin spears of multicolored light painted Koheim’s stick straight body, flickered, then held.
 
The Constellation accepted. George C. Westmoreland was bald as well, his head oddly symmetrical compared to Koheim’s high, pale peak. Westmoreland’s eyes were a stark, penetrating blue that almost wavered when greeted by Koheim’s white, almost pupiless eyes, his too pale skin and pointed teeth. George Westmoreland’s face remained blank, whilst his XO’s made a disgusted expression. “American.” Koheim began. “I am Koheim, of Xiphos. I am an Ultimate. You and your crew are pondscum. We have three railguns. When they fire the damage to your ship will be superficial at best…however…we are targeting your most populated decks. A Ticonderoga class cruiser such as yours carries families, yes? How old do your offspring get before you implant cortical stacks? Even if we die we will make sure to rid the future of some of your disgusting chldren.”
 
Westmoreland’s expression did not change.
 
Koheim continued. “We also have on board a human child. I am transmitting you proof now.”
 
Westmoreland’s eyes glazed over as he stared at something only he could see. It took him a good long minute to digest the information. In that minute Lara finished prepping the pod. She floated back to Koheim, staying just around the corner and out of the frame. Westmoreland spoke: “What are your terms?” 
 
Koheim waited.
 
Lara messaged him, vocal this time, her voice strained. “Ko, no, we can’t, if they take us they’ll know what we did, they’ll dissect him, please, I know it’s hard but…”
 
<It’s just a dramatic pause Lara. I agree with you.>
 
Koheim sneered, “American. You will let us continue unharmed to our destination or we are ejecting the child in an escape pod without life support. YOU have sixty seconds till we do.”
 
Westmoreland allowed one eyebrow to rise.
 
Koheim messaged both muses. He instructed them to weaken their own security measures, specifically in regards to weapon systems and the escape pods own network. <Already done Ko. Your muse crawls at a geological scale>
 
<Stop trying to make me laugh you lunatic>
 
<Might as well go out with a smile baby.>
 
Twenty seconds later the Solomon’s railguns were subverted by the Constellation’s hackers. A few seconds after that the hackers launched the escape pod remotely, with life support still functioning. 
 
Westmoreland nodded at someone off frame. He intoned “By the homestar-act of twenty…”
 
Ko cut the feed. He turned to Lara, shoved towards her and embraced her. He disabled the emotional dampeners. “I will see you in paradise Koheim.” Koheim could not speak, he only stayed, inhaling her, tangling her hair in his hands. Lara said: “Guardian angels will watch over Judas. Be at peace.”
 
The ship’s AI sounded klaxons. 
 
Koheim wept for the first time in his life.
 
“Inshallah.” Lara said.
 
From the Constellation’s bridge Westmoreland watched The Solomon burst like a metal ball, tiny flames dancing silently across it’s shattered hull. 
 
“Let bring that child home boys. Then scan for any stacks and toast ’em.” 
 
His crew cheered. By the time The Constellation returned to Ganymede Judas had been renamed John, and Westmoreland’s executive officer, Rebecca  Clarke, was legally his mother. 
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Another Poem: Sonder

Sonder

Sometimes when my mind feels filled to the brim,
With unhappy thoughts, heavy enough to pull me down,
I close my eyes, let my mind wander around.

And see myself on my bed, eyes dead I zoom out,
Through the white painted walls that shield me from other muffled shouts,
These walls of concrete in which live dozens of other lives that now weep, laugh, scream, crowd around screens,
Till I zoom out.

See the buildings rise like rectangular hives and around them the trees that grow so low,
The green scabbed over with gray platelets; watch the hawks that nest near antennas,
Converting corners into homes.

See the brown feathered sparrows selected naturally by the smog.
The insects that roam under every nook and cranny,
The way patches of flowers bloom,
Drinking of the slice of sky between our two towering homes.
This urban ecology, this habitat crammed with so much complexity,
And still farther out I see the city,

7 million lives and a billion lights blinking,
Beetles thread through roads on water ships lines tracing,
And yet the green exceeds the artificial wonders we’ve seeded,
The creatures, the minds, the myriad eyes, I cannot conceive,
Out further till I’m looking at what we call a country.

From up here the greens, tans, the tones of life are all I need,
Scars of mountains, wisps of clouds, our gray marks made,
Our noises not loud enough to reach me.
And farther till the sky glows with the blue scattering nitrogen,
The life permitting oxygen that quickens in all our floundering cells:
Watch the curve of our home meet the black that shows through all the gaps we look up to.

Out and out from this pale blue dot, this azure god we all inhabit,
7 billion other lives and the countless stories all begun, the ones that died,
On that tiny receding light.
Till Sol beams plasma into the night,
Our star crushes, compresses, expels heat, heavy elements to breathe,
chains of carbon to plot out our farthest dreams.

And out till the solar system, with it’s gravitation, engraved upon the fabric invisible,
Causes planets to circle in the paths they etch, orbit, and maintain,
Out till we spy from the side- the milky way
How many more roving rocks encased with air might there remain?
How many more lives, so many tiny blinking eyes, so many flickering lives- might this beautiful mess contain?
300 billion more stars, spheres that shrink ours to motes, embers compared to roaring flames.
And out so far, so far, across the void where other stars, gather: 100 billion more galaxies rain,
Light across a gulf of space so vast we measure distance with time.
How many other beds hold souls, that dream, and love and hope so hard?
Thoughts that reach my standing frame, faster than light,
Brightens my mind,
Like candles kindled in the night.

Short Story: Gonzago The Auditor

The lift stopped between floors. Did we break down? No one moved or seemed to care. I say “Hey uh, maybe someone should hit the emergency bell.” A slumped suit back doesn’t move. Bastard. Poke him. No one is moving. Turn around. See someone frozen, mid-yawn, hand ready to catch it. What the fuck:

“HELLO?” Nothing except the fear rocketing up my spine.

Then the lift doors slowly open and a blinding slice of expanding light has me closing my eyes. I open my mouth to scream when sound stops me:

“Greetings Human Male You Have Been Chosen Do Not Be Alarmed. Walk Towards The Light.”

I count the fingers on the hand I use to shield me from the brightness. I can still count. Does that mean my brain is working correctly? I yell at the light:

“My name is…Krantz. Krantz Gonzago…and I’m uh…I’m an auditor…please…what’s going on?”

“Step Forward Gonzago The Auditor.”

Theres nowhere else to go so I move towards the crack till I’m immersed in white. “It’s too bright I can’t see.”

“Follow My Instructions Gonzago The Auditor: Forward. Keep Moving Forward. Now Stop. Open Your Eyes.”

I do.

And find myself in a steel room with a see-through floor, a desk and chair, and no visible doors. I turn around and the elevator is gone. What remains is only a blank steel wall with some kind of protruding screen, and one thin metallic finger, extending outwards.

“H-Hello?” The voices seem to come from every direction, heavy with reverb. I scan for speakers, find none:

“Gonzago The Auditor Do You Know Where You Are?”

I open and close my mouth a few times.

“I Will Increase The Magnification: Look Down.”

I do and find, spread out below, a sea of black, speckled with glinting stars and a pale blue dot, enlarging, becoming as big as my fist, then a large ball, then the earth fills most of the floor, the blue capped with tufts of white, lace-like clouds, the curvature fading to black, all of it seeming to glow in its own light.

“What Do You See Gonzago The Auditor?”

On my hands and knees I say: “Home.”

“Yes.”

“Fucking hell.”

“Yes. That Terminal Near You Is An Ecto Move Towards it And The Haptic Interface Will Activate.”

“What?”

“Touch The Metal Thing Gonzago The Auditor.”

I went over to the metal finger. When I got close enough some kind of hologram appeared, of a keyboard, the same sort I’ve been using for years, with the exception that it hovered in mid-air and was made entirely of orange light. The screen lit up with a menu in English.

“Is there an option to go home…”

“Gonzago The Auditor?”

“Yes?”

“Do You Really Want To Go Back?”

I looked at the stars and stretched away and off to the sides of earth, where these aliens had come from, which meant, that I wasn’t or at least we weren’t, truly alone, not really and I said: “No, not yet, but why did you choose me? Hello?”

I asked several more questions but no response came. I stood in eerie silence above earth, alone.

The screen had a list of terms, functions that meant nothing to me as I went down the list.

– Activate Nano-fabricator
– Augmented Reality Control
– Hologram Projector
– Smart Wall Configuration
– Station Status

“Hrmm.” I pressed he “Smart Wall Configuration.” Another nested list emerged.

“Wall climbing. I used to do that in school.” Sort of. Vague memories unfurled. An image of hanging from a blue sea shell, some crowd chanting below. Were they old friends? What were their names? It already seeemed so far away. I key down till I’ve selected wall climbing. A confirm box press yes. Oddly familiar.

The ceiling retreated upwards, sliding away, and the walls reformed themselves into a climbing wall, hand helds emerging and changing color. It all looks so pristinely clean.

I approach the nearest wall. “I bet you perverts think its funny and predictable that an advanced primate such as my self as resorted to climbing.” Run my hand over the hand-holds- they feel solid. Say: “Must be like…nano-technology…yeah.” More silence.

“Definitely *ahem* nanotech, yeah.” I go back to the terminal, look at the menu. I select gravity control, and notice, for the first time, a small graphic of what looks like a human mouth in the corner. As I look at it a holographic tool tip appears: “Voice Control”. I press it.

Now what?

“Uhh, computer, uhh…voice control…active?”

“YES”

“OKAY. Well…” And smiling through my teeth, I say: “Set gravity to…zero.”

“ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY DEACTIVATED.”And I slowly felt my arms drifting upwards, then my whole body.

Awesome.

I shove off the floor.

“WOOHOO!”

“REPHRASE COMMAND”

Nevermind. I soar upwards, tuck my legs in and begin to spin. I’m going head over heels, out of control, the earth sliding into and out of my view, into and past, over and under- the ceiling hurtles towards me- “FUUUUCK” My legs, outstretched, hit the ceiling and I push off and now I’m diving towards the transparent floor, the earth on the other side. I try to shield my face. “OH SHIIIIT…” Then I stop, bungee cord back the way I came- some kind of rope encircling my shin, made of the same, shape-changing material as the wall.

I play in zero-gravity, spinning through the air, floating. I learn enough control to glide, arms spread, a foot or so from the floor. For a few minutes it feels like I’m floating space, free, above earth. I drift down till my nose touches the ground, find myself panting from all the movement. A cold sheen covers my face. A single bead of of perspiration forms on my nose, expands till I blow upwards and watch a perfect, salty sphere detach.

I prepare myself for the short fall and say: “Set gravity to…uh…default.”

“SETTING GRAVITY TO 1G”

And I hit the floor with a dull thud. Feel clumsy and heavy again. Go back to the terminal. There is a menu option- ‘Entertainment.’

More options:
-Audio
– Video
– XP

Before I’ve even finished reading the menu the whole thing flashes red and I’m back where I started. Maybe it’s glitched. I try XP and the wall next to the terminal reforms quietly, a sort of shelf extending with a strange , curved piece of plastic that almost resembles a headset. I reach out, touch it, and the whole thing retracts, the screen red:

‘ACCESS RESTRICTED’

“What’s XP?”

A voice answers, filled with reverb, that I hadn’t heard in some time:

“XP Stands For Experience Playback, Gonzago The Auditor.” I go back to the terminal and start going through menu options, settle on ‘Nano-fabricators.’ Whilst my captor explains, “Experience playback is full sensory experience entertainment.”

The nested list under ‘Nano-fabricator’ is massive- food, drinks, furniture, clothing.

“it’s not just audio and video, but tactile sensations, bodily awareness, emotions and even internal thoughts…”

The food looks human, even down to the names of the drinks, it’s like they designed all this for a human, for me.”

“With full spectrum XP you can feel what it’s like to be someone else. You can experience what it’s like to scale a mountain, to fly like a bird…”

“And porn?”

“That too.”

“Fascinating but I got some other questions like, when do I get to leave this place? What is this then? Am I an exhibition for you guys? An experiment? What’s with all the human food. The menu lockouts- and woah…what was that?”

Down, towards earth, I watch objects, small at this distance emerge from the atmosphere like a school of steel fish, rocket trails extending beneath them down to the surface. “What is happening down there?” The night side of the earth approaches, and I see another impossibility- a straight line, like an enormous silver string, it goes through the sky, down past the clouds towards the surface. “What is that?”

“Well. That would be the sub-saharan space elevator.”

Now notice how South America looks weird- too much sea, like sections of it are submerged in the ocean. The fear comes back.

“WHAT THE HELL IS ALL THIS?”

A section of the wall recedes, and a woman emerges. “Hello Gonzago.” she says, the reverb gone. “My name is Ophelia and there is something you should know. The date is March 25th.”

“I know.”

“2093.”

“Oh my God.”

“Yes.”

“You’re fucking time travelers. You like, time traveled me into the future. You’re not aliens at all.”

“Yes.”

“You’re human.”

“Well…we prefer the term trans-human.”

“Excuse me?”

“This is going to come as a bit of a shock Gonazgo the auditor, but the world has changed somewhat, in fact we, as a species, have changed.”

She extended one arm then, and I saw it slide open, revealing a hollow space. Inside she withdrew a small object, a metallic cube. “My arm is artificial.” She said. “I had it replaced by choice- it helps me as an artist.” She tapped her head. “There is an insert here, a sort of computer with which I can control networked objects, like this holo-projector.” The cube sprouted tiny rotors, landing in front of us. Her hand spread and split, her digits parting to become small tools. “The holo-projector will teach you about our brave new world, that has such things in it- it’s your world now.”

“But I can’t. I’m not FROM here. I have no money, no pass port, hell, no job. Except, wait a minute- was I declared dead then? Or my investments…if I’m still alive, with almost one hundred years of compound interest…I could be rich right? Super rich…”

“Gonzago the auditor you are not rich, not in the sense you mean. In our time, this time, money is not as necessary as it was in yours.”

“So what…do I do now? I mean I’m an auditor. I have a degree. The laws have probably changed, everything, I bet you have like, what, robots doing my job now?”

“The short answer is yes. We do not call them robots, but essentially- yes. Your occupation is no longer relevant.”

“Then how will I make a living?”

“Living is easier, with the use of the nanofabbers. These machines are like your ancient…” she seemed to zone out, then she focused on me again. “Sorry I had to look up the historical term- these nanofabbers are like your ancient 3D printers, but with microscopic…robots, that build objects from the atom up. All that is needed are the raw elements- silicon, carbon, hydrogen; all, of course, readily available. In our world, in this world- creative work is what is valued more, originality that only your unique perspective can produce, work that can’t be produced by the nanofabbers, not gross labor. Design is what matters, art, Gonzago the auditor you must discover what it is your are capable of creating, what you have to contribute to the rest of us. The holo-vid will explain in more detail.

I watched and felt as if I was falling, as if everything I thought I knew had been rendered a lie. So I sat, hugging my knee in hologram’s glare.

“So what is this then- some kind of utopia? A heaven without friends, with no family, like some kind of dream that I am a tourist in?”

Ophelia looked at me for some moments, then nodded her head, as if in approval: “Gonzago the auditor, that was well put- have you considered writing?” She clapped her hands with what might have been condescending pride.

“I haven’t considered a damn thing. I’ve never been so terrified in my life. I mean the scariest memory I have would have to be, I mean…”

I tried to cast backwards in my mind, found an image, stark, of a climbing wall, the same damn wall, and I am falling- no, I am merely afraid of falling. Then Ophelia’s hands are around my hands and she’s saying: “Don’t worry Gonzago, stop trying so hard to remember- focus on the future, on what you’re going to do next in this world. It really is incredible in the end, you know- so much better than your time. There isn’t much of what you called poverty; nobody wants. Technology has made us more, made us better than we were. We explore the universe now! The kind of menial, repetitive work you used to do is fully automated, is being by AI’s.”

“So now what, you have robots, living alongside humans…as equals?”

Opelia looked disgusted. “They aren’t people Gonzago, they are machines, property: we created THEM!”

I wondered how I had here, what the life expectancy is, what kind of government exists, what kind of families their now were. I said to her: “Okay. So where do I start?”

She smiled and I feel reassured, and she…

Froze.

I froze Gonzago’s playback, took off the XP headset. My partner said: “HEY! Why’d you pause it? I was inside the guy’s head. You totally ruined the flow.” Gonzago remained, that weird sensation he had, a mixture of curiosity, wonder, and fear, all fading away. “HELLO?” my partner said, poking me- “I said, why’d you pause it? This is great- this is the best XP cast I’ve seen in ages.”

I said: “I don’t know, the whole thing seems kind of gimmicky. Like Ophelia’s running out of ideas.” There were two more seasons to go through still, but for now Gonzago remained frozen. “It’s like, come on, there’s no way he’d really believe he was ‘time traveled’ into the future- that’s stupid, everyone knows that’s literally impossible. And when he finds out he’s a machine?”

“Yeah. That almost seems wrong.” My partner said. “I like Gonzago, even if he isn’t a person.”

Eventually we resumed the show.