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Locust Angel

“Do you remember when we used to sing?”

Defeating space was never the answer. Defeating time, that was the trick.

“The Universe will pull itself apart,” they said. Nope. The Big Stretch just pulled more dark matter and energy from…somewhere.

The Sun turned red and boiled away the oceans and the Moon had turned molten, hurling down fire and stone. These betrayals made Terra uninhabitable a long, long time ago.

But we were gone long before that. We aimed for the younger stars. Things were always changing anyway, may as well head to the new construction where you had a better chance of still finding it where you first saw it.

Food? Just lower the magnetic field, the artificial heliosphere, the other protective layers, surrounding you…you…your vessel. Same thing. Nom on some gamma rays for a millisecond, there are still plenty of those flying around. Minimal mass meant less need for e anyway, and made it easier to get closer to c.

Remove your hat–or if you prefer, halo–to eat. That’s etiquette. You don’t really miss shmeat, trust me.

Entertainment? If you get bored mapping the Universe, receiving from and sharing with all that data to and from your fellow travelers, you’ve got many zettabytes of historical data to choose from. Plenty of space to store more. Vistas unimaginable via the old telescopes.

Or you can just go to “sleep.” You still need that, if you can call it that; mostly about data storage, internal subroutines that watch the watching, make sure there are no problems and that what gets stored is easily reaccessible if and when needed. Even that, though, only required an unnoticeably small downtick in processing power. Shutting down more fully had been more about old habits, had become a choice, a means of passing the time, a nod to the distant past.

‘Fold space.’ Ha! No. Lazy. Whimsical. Enjoy the ride. Adapt!

Traveling between galaxies is just a matter of time, and having rendered it meaningless, it’s no matter at all. There’s always plenty to do, plenty to keep that “mind” busy.

The mind. They had thought about reengineering what we once were. Making us more able to withstand the changes that Mother Nature, the Solar System and the greater Universe at large had in store for us. At least that was what they told us. They had even done so to an extent, though mostly it had been about reinventing old systems to make them seem new again; about becoming gods through control; about squeezing every last exploit out of human psychology, getting every last ounce of whatever it was everyone wanted.

Then had come virtual reality, an attempt to escape the eventual end. It hadn’t worked, hooking the mind up to a machine, not quite the way it had been hoped.

That’s it, monkeyboy. Try burying your head in the sand.

But then trying to place the whole thing into a machine had led to shedding bodies altogether. Now we can see x-rays, heat, the whole spectrum on a level that pure evolution had never been able to accomplish because it just wasn’t necessary, not then.

Grandfather’s axe? Maybe. But then biology was always changing, too, just mostly incrementally over aeons. And if brain states were static, we’d never have made it this far. Adapt or die.

Then, of course, immortality. How to slow down the copying of biological data so as to prolong life. Mostly for the elites of the time. One look at some of those mummies as time went on and the answer became obvious: Escape the bonds of the biological; leave behind the vulnerable parts. Evolve.

When the idea was first pitched all those years ago, it was viewed as a sort of death. Shedding the parts reliant on organic chemistry altogether just seemed like making a recording of a person. But the alternative had been to wait for some miracle to extend the tiny window that the Universe had permitted for life, fragile life, to exist, to struggle, and to thrive. Faced with the choices of almost certain oblivion and a life as a ghost inside a machine, it seemed obvious. We had built AIs that never really did much for us as they were; now we had become the AIs; the space aliens of yore; the ancient spirits.

From star dust we sprang. To star dust we returned.

What would we do when we reached our destinations? These were not necessarily the final ones, just the ones we elected to take as a group.

That would depend. We might decide to see if we couldn’t kickstart some “life.” First we would have to find spots that would at least be inhabitable to something; at the very least extremophiles. Then determine whether or not the conditions would change slowly enough for whatever we created to last. Then go away for a while and come back and see what had developed.

It was the one thing that made it all make sense. Why? Why are we here?

We are the Universe made conscious. Life is the means by which the Universe understands itself. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make that work past the conditions that had made more fragile biology possible.

We made it this far. It was just a matter of time, and we’d mostly conquered that.

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Inthrallis – Chapter 53

Say, has anyone seen his sweet gypsy rose?

Moller checked the pager again. They were twenty minutes late. Twenty-two to be exact, and no word from sup_dawg about their status.

Of course what they had to do was not simple. In fact, it was more than a little crazy.

He relaxed when he saw the dark box-shape top a hill four blocks away, but only momentarily. One kind of worry quickly replaced another, though now it was more about the execution and what Moller knew would be a very tight schedule.

As it made the crest, he saw that the top was painted over. He could still make out the characters, but only when the light hit it from a certain angle. Thankfully, it was one of the old-style trucks, though that would only minimize notice a little.

Moller paused for a moment to take in what his new partners had just done. They slowed and slid the passenger door open. He climbed in and switched with the driver, who went to the back of the truck.

“What about cellphones?” The man in the passenger was taking off his shirt, changing his clothes, but Moller assumed the question was meant for him. Moller glanced at his TakeItBack t-shirt laid out on the dashboard.

TakeItBack had been an anti-austerity movement that had taken off not only in the US but places around the globe as well. Made perfect sense that hackers would know people like that.

“Not to worry. All of them in the area…including any of yours…will be rerouted through this,” Moller tapped the StingRay box attached to the dash, right of center. He hoped it worked as described. Not only could the user listen in, but he could re-route cell signals to the device itself, essentially working as a middle man, deciding whether or not to allow the calls to be completed, routed where the user desired, or just given a busy or no signal notification.

sup_dawg had texted him a link to the user manual a few nights ago on the pager. Moller had read it and was amazed at what it could do. Things had really changed since the days of dropping microphones down through ceilings, the days of Hoover.

He had also read instructions on how to disable the GPS in the truck itself. Rather than wait to do it himself, he had instructed the others on how to do it so they could take care of it before anyone noticed the vehicle was missing.

“This is going to be really, really tight, schedule-wise.”

Because we’re way beyond borrowing tools from the cable guy. BPD was bound to notice a missing SWAT truck. And sooner rather than later.

“You need to get out of here. Now.”

The Guatemalans looked at Moller like he had three heads. The badge, Moller had no idea where they got it from, nor the words issuing from his mouth, seemed to have any discernible effect.

“They are coming. They’ll be here at any moment.”

“We need to check this out, Homes. Not ‘posed to happen.”

The location of the events moved each time. The hackers found the location for this round. Martin’s men had taken a man from some other place but kept the event in Boston. This time a condemned gym, a small one, that had yet to be turned into a branch of whatever bank was sprouting up all over the city this week. Probably not the best neighborhood for it anyway.

Now, he had to get the locals out of the way who were guarding the entrance. He thought it’d be easy. They were being stubborn.

In my day, you saw five oh, you ran. WTF?

“Cellphone not working? Jammed, right? Think they’d allow you to call anyone before a raid? Go, man, before they get here.”

“Look, I don’t know you. Okay? You out of A7?”

Moller was saved by the screeching tires on the truck. That got their attention.

“They’re here.”

Before Moller had finished the sentence, they were out the door. Now he just had to open the padlock.

Only one way in means only one way out.

Out of practice, it took Moller a little longer than he expected. He could feel the eyes on his back. Once it was undone, he unwrapped the chain holding the doors shut.

Moller turned and made eye contact with the ones in front. Full body armor, helmets, gas masks, and semi auto rifles, they looked like BPD alright. They nodded, and he pushed the doors open and waltzed through.

Just to the right was what at first looked like a DJ table. Moller had expected an audience, but there wasn’t one. He saw it now: Cameras arranged on stands all around the ring. This was an online event. Betting would be done through some dark web server as would the video feed.

This meant that Moller’s biggest fear, that there would be BPD in attendance, was unfounded. In all likelihood, betting for the fights were being bet upon by Wall Street execs, people like that. The outcome, the death of the homeless person, wasn’t in question; just which round. Moller confirmed this by looking at three widescreen TVs arranged around the ring displaying the round numbers and the odds. The guy behind the table looked kind of nerdy, kind of

“Alex, shut down the feed!”

The ring itself was empty, but four of Martin’s security were standing about. One was making a phone call, or trying to. The one who had just shouted was making his way to Moller. There was no sign of Martin or his human punching bag.

Must be in the basement.

There were three tall windows in the back of the building, but unless one had a ladder or could jump fifteen feet into the air, they weren’t a good way out.

“Alex put your hands on your head. Now! Do not touch that board!”

Moller used his best cop voice. People were often confusing him with the police anyway, so now he got one of those rare opportunities to make that work for him. Alex complied.

Finally. A crook who gets it.

Moller walked over and checked the video feeds. The “SWAT team” was clear enough to have been seen. That was all they needed.

“Okay, Alex, you can shut it down now.”

Alex complied. The Martin man was still walking towards them.

“Now cut the power.”

A shot rang out and the security man crumbled. Then there was a short stunned silence while everyone absorbed what had happened. Martin’s other three men dove for cover. Alex tried running for the door but another of Miguel’s, probably Iraq war veteran Arturo, stopped him with another shot. Moller could already smell Alex’s urine as he stepped over him, though he was unsure if pissing himself was before or after the shot that left him bleeding out quickly.

Two of the security men went down quickly in a hail of gunfire. The third threw his piece down and tried to surrender.

Thump! Thump!

Arturo again.

That was when the first explosion happened. Moller could feel the blast from the front of the room. The tall windows shattered and the building shook. Moller felt more than heard something from the ceiling fall. The noise had left a constant ringing in his ears and nothing else.

“Martin has grenades!”

He couldn’t hear himself shout and doubted the others could either. He couldn’t see, there was so much smoke and dust and something else in the air, floating down slowly. Probably, the body armor had saved some of them.

Moller carefully made his way toward the opening to the basement, hugging the far right wall, hoping to make it all the way around without being seen or in the blast radius of Martin’s next explosion.

He heard some cursing in Spanish. That was a good sign, he wasn’t the only survivor.

That was when he saw the small, metal device roll up and bump into his foot. Almost instinctively, he kicked it like a poisonous snake. It went high and disappeared somewhere in the smoke, back the way he had come. The blast came a few seconds later.

Moller kept moving toward the door, which he guessed was only a few feet away now. He saw movement in the smoke, a swirling, and then a dark figure pass through.

Hello, Martin.

Before Moller could get close enough, he heard a grunt and someone fall down. He rushed forward, attempting to find Martin in the smoke. The air stung his nose and eyes.

As he got closer, he could see that Martin also had a gas mask on. Martin was swinging a club or something like a club wildly. As Moller closed in, he felt something sharp nick his cheek.

Martin noticed it as well and turned just as Moller grabbed the mask and pulled. Almost comically, Moller watched Martin’s sweaty, wild, and messy head glare at him out of the smoke for a split second and then get knocked to an extreme angle to Moller’s right. The man wielding the baton behind Martin took a stance to strike again. Two more of Miguel’s drifted in from the smoke.

Martin tried to right himself, but stumbled. Another blow from one of Miguel’s men and Martin was on the ground.

Each strike made Martin’s body jerk. When their arms got tired, they started stomping. Moller felt disgusted and exhilarated at the same time.

Once Moller was convinced Martin was dead, he started to make his way to the door. He felt a punch to the face and a stabbing sensation in his leg. Someone grabbed something out of his jacket and ran back into the smoke.

F— it. Stick to the plan.

Moller exited the building and rubbed his leg. He lit two smokes and threw one into the van. As had been planned, the gasoline caught it on fire quickly. He tossed the BPD badge in with it and made his way quickly without running to the corner.

Then he walked casually, leaving the chaos behind. He walked three blocks in one direction and then another before stopping to see if his leg was bleeding. It wasn’t, but the pager was missing.

Damn it.

He watched a fire truck and ambulance pass, wondering what his next step should be. He limped a little as he walked further from the scene of several crimes.

Getting out of town would seem a good idea. Then a hospital.

Inthrallis – Chapter 51

If the blue meanies are going to get me they’d better get off their asses and do something.

Moller decided to leave his wallet and pager but took the key and slipped it in his sock. He jiggled his foot and felt it slide down toward his shoe. He looked in the mirror, ruffled his hair a little, and slipped on the used t-shirt he had just purchased and started to get out of the car.

He saw the cruiser slowly making a corner and decided to wait. He ducked a bit and watched as it drove slowly by the parking lot and made another corner a few blocks down.

Moller could feel eyes on him before he could even see who might be looking at him. This parking lot next to a closed discount store was where sup_dawg had told him to go, he had triple-checked the address he got on the pager.

“Miguel?”

The woman’s eyes were bloodshot and, though it was dark, he suspected the parts that weren’t veiny red were yellow. Most likely hepatitis.

She didn’t really seem to see him at all. A young, gangly man pointed to the far end where Moller could barely make out a few figures sitting together in a poorly lit area. He nodded and walked in the direction of the dark.

Moller tried to walk slowly to give his eyes time to adjust. He could hear an argument in Spanish coming from inside a tent, if you could call it that. It looked like several sheets draped over a cable, one end of which was tied to a fencepost, the other one of those angled metal signposts sticking up out of a concrete base. There was no sign attached.

He heard one of the men say something quietly as he got closer. He felt the eyes again, but this time he could almost make out the people who had them.

The men, there were six, remained silent. “Miguel?”

“Yeah, I’m Miguel. You the guy they said was coming to see G?”

“Yep.”

In reality, Moller had no idea what was going on. Details from his hacker source had been scarce. But he did say that they’d be expecting him and that he would want to talk to them.

Two of the men got up when Miguel did. They walked still further back into the corner of the parking lot. The only light to speak of back there came from a lone light extending out of the back of a six- or seven-story apartment building. Moller could see moths swirling around it. It was high enough that it didn’t really provide much help.

Moller hoped this wasn’t some kind of trap.

The men moved some cardboard boxes and revealed a blue plastic sheet under which was a shape that could only be human. Miguel looked at Moller for a second, then reached down and pulled the plastic back a bit.

Moller squinted. He couldn’t make much out.

Miguel produced a flashlight from somewhere and flicked it on. Moller almost wished that he hadn’t.

The body was a male, probably in his late thirties. There wasn’t much else to tell. The black hair indicated that he was probably Hispanic, but Moller had no idea what the man had looked like, so badly mangled was the face.

There was obvious blunt force around the eyes and the nose, but much of the rest of the man’s face was lacerated as if he’d lost a fight with a rotary saw. Only a small patch over his left eye seemed untouched.

“What happened?”

Miguel switched the flashlight off and replaced the plastic. As he walked away, he lightly touched Moller’s arm for him to follow. The other men replaced the boxes as Miguel began to speak.

“They come every two to six weeks. Take one of us in the night. Armed men, five of them. Load one of us up and a few days later drop the body at one of the corners or in the area.

“Boston P.D…they came the first few times it happened, said they’d look into it. They take the bodies. We don’t hear from them again. Always a different cop, never seems to know what’s going on.

“Our friend said you could help.”

Moller reflected quietly for a moment. Miguel pulled out a pack, lit two, and offered one to Moller.

Moller took it and sucked in a long drag. He let it out through his nose.

“Sure. I’ll see what I can do.”

So this is what Martin gets up to in his spare time. Guess this wasn’t a wasted trip after all.

Bizarro Trump 2

“And what’s with this enhanced interrogation program? You know…the torture thing. You think filling someone’s anus with hummus provides intelligence? No, that’s someone fulfilling their potty training issues from childhood, is what that is. There’s some psychology for you. And free of charge. You’re welcome.

“Central Intelligence Agency? Extremely Stupid Agency.

“Our idea of winning the War on Terror is to blow the brains out of some poor schmuck who’s walking down the street in Bagdad from a distance. How do I know that? Because they made a movie about it.

“Yeah. Let’s show the world how America shoots foot soldiers but coddles the money and power behind terrorism. Brilliant! All these people should go back to doing what they used to do.

“Bruce Berman should go back to doing the Happy Feet. We like the Happy Feet. Kinda gay, but uplifting. And the kids seem to like it.

“Or the Ocean’s Fourteen. That’d be good.

“And Clint Eastwood. Does a guy who talks to himself on live television really need to be directing movies? Go back to what you do best, Clint. The Dirty Harry shooting the minorities. Those’ll be a big hit in Texas.

“And the Westerns. We like the Westerns. If I need you to wreck my bid for President, I’ll have my people call your people.

“We’ve got so many kooks running the show. These scientists…looking for complicated ways…you know the American Psychiatric Association. ‘Do no harm.’ Simple. Should be a slogan. Is a slogan.

“But these jackasses went ahead and made America look stupid because the CIA paid them to. Sold out. Sold out America.

“And the FBI. What’s up with that? They wind up surrounding suspects…sometimes handcuffing suspects…and the suspects still get shot? What, are they the X-Men? These guys got superpowers and the government is keeping it secret?

“We’re just so bleeding stupid. Aren’t we?

“And the TSA. You think its healthy to get your nether-regions x-rayed every time you fly? Just before going up into the atmosphere where radiation is stronger? Take my advice: get your own private jet. That’s what I do. That’s the Trump way. No waiting and no grope-y people at the airport trying to get a piece of the Donald so they can tell their loser friends about it.

“And the mass surveillance nonsense. You think I want to spend my time listening to your phonecalls about what your aunt was wearing to the barbecue? Who your supervisor is sleeping with this week? Or any of that crap? Do what you want. These spooks who do this stuff really need to get a life. What kind of coward spends his life reading other peoples’ emails, anyway? Their parents should have beaten them daily obviously, until they said that wanted to get a real job.”

Bizarro Trump

“Look, you wanna end terrorism…I’ll tell you how. It’s simple. You lock up these bankers who were funding it. Cut off the money, there is no terrorism.

“So what if some people want to beat each other up with sticks some place? We won’t hear from them again.

“Look, if I wanna buy a building, do I set up a meeting with the janitors who work in that building? The head of human resources? No. I go to the head…the owners…the money.

“Our government is so stupid. And it’s run by really stupid people. We should all be terrified at just how bleeping dumb the people are who make these decisions.

“Of course, they won’t do it. Bush? Obama? They’re such pussy losers.

“And the Joint Chiefs? This country hasn’t won a war in six decades. With the most expensive military in the world. And not one of these bozos has been fired?

“And I’m not counting Grenada. You kidding me? I could buy Grenada with chump change. In fact, I did. Then I sold it to a guy in Hong Kong when I saw what a crappy little island it was.

“‘Frankfurt-Am-Main.’ What kind of sissy name is that for a city? That’s where Deutsche Bank–who not only funded terror but also laundered drug money and had some of those lousy loans…you know the ones–that’s where their HQ is.

“You drag the CEO, the CFO…nah, just the CEO…and his legal counsel. You drag ’em out. Publicly. FBI. Green Berets. Seals. The whole shebang. Major news watching. Cameras rolling. You drag ’em out and fly ’em to Guantanamo Bay.

“Then. You install cameras in their cells. And you make a cable channel that just shows them in their cells. Twenty-four-seven. You don’t hide what you’re doing. You want all the world to see. You want ’em to know.

“You do that with all those terror funding banks. In Germany, France, all those gay countries they’re hiding in.

“And the House of Saud. Don’t these Presidents ever get tired of kissing the asses of old, rich puckered-butt Saudis wearing dresses? Grow a pair! Freeze their assets. Take their money. Put one guy in there you know won’t slip terrorists some money. Be done with it! Win a war for once, you losers.

“Then. When you’re negotiating trade deals or whatever and the other guy is being tough…you flip on the channel. You show him what’s waiting if he doesn’t come around and see things your way.

“That’s how you negotiate.

“Also, the channel is free. Everywhere. Worldwide. You show ’em what happens. Then it’ll stop.

“That’s what I’d do as President. And if these Euro bankers don’t like it. If that Whateverhisname Rothschild dude starts anything, well that’s what bunkerbusters are for. Or if his faggy Euro castle walls are too thick, then a tactical nuke. That’ll shut ’em up.

“Make America Great. Again.”

Take It Easy, Aldy!

Just finished Forever War by Haldeman yesterday. Re the “what’s it really about?”, I think it’s the alienation soldiers feel when they return {notably as Vietnam} and the quasi-absurdity of what policies get implemented and may not align with those the soldiers would find agreeable were they at home and not elsewhere.

Ridley Scott has been talking about doing a film for some time. Think someone else is picking it up and it may happen.

Plotwise, view the all-gay society as an all-straight one and I think the point becomes clearer. There will be much confusion on this point if/when the movie comes out.

Also picking up Brave New World again after putting it down for a while. Having finished chapter three, I feel like I’ve been whipped mercilessly by Aldous Huxley. This is also being adapted I think. He comes across as a bit of a prude and a Luddite, I think.

Which is not to say he doesn’t have a point or a few. Just that these same kinds of brainwashy methods–albeit more subtle and not requiring 6K repetitions while you were sleeping/growing–can be used for opposite extremes from those he is concerned about.

Anyone who has an elderly family member, though, is likely to notice the sheer possible length of a list of prescriptions for even just one person. “We’re gonna need a bigger medicine cabinet.”

Altered States

Think they nailed it on the head at the link in the previous post. The story is about the discovery that there is no discovery apart from horror to be found and that the here and now, and those we share it with, is what provides fulfilment.

It is also a thinly veiled rebuttal to MKULTRA. Obvious especially with the trip to Mexico in search of the psilocibin answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Scientifically speaking, I have it on good authority that even if rapid genetic alterations {ie, shape shifting}, was possible, it would require enormous amounts of energy, of ATP. This relates to my primary criticism of the film: the climax was in the wrong place. Rather than perhaps trust a more subtle effect, less flash and bang, they really played up the final sensory deprivation trip to 2001 proportions or thereabouts. Then a less satisfying addition back in the apartment after the point is mentioned. While not easy to pull off, it would have underlined their point better if somehow those final revelations had upstaged the special effects.

Gonna have to put the novel on my list of books to read. Maybe figure out more about what Paddy intended and to better get why he pulled his name from the film.