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New England.

Writer

Rumination is self-destruction.
Banished
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
This mood always comes around.

A combination of helplessness and fear.

As if I'm not doing enough; as if I'll never succeed.

Who am I succeeding?

What am I attempting to gain?

I have a house, a family, friends, someone who loves me.

Yet after a day of thinking I'm ready to snap.

Why must we live in fear? Why should I have to put up with it?

Fear of money running out. Fear of being told what to do. Fear of the unknown. Fear.

There are times where I want to burn it all down. To attack.

This is why some days I want to be Jack. And some days I don't.

I am almost in tears saying this because of the irony.

When I need him, he's there; always. But I never fully utilise him. Is that my fault? Or is it because he's not meant to be fully utilised? Because if he was; he'd destroy everything.

Just because you have a loaded gun doesn't mean you should fire it off when things go wrong. Jack's a deterrent. Not a solution to the problem.

And alone, he's weak; nothing; powerless.

But with the others...

Raise your weapon.

Suffering in silence is the English way.


Every time I get the urge to visit New England, something turns me away. This something is resistance, always standing in my way, redirecting me elsewhere; telling me to focus my attentions on something else, someone else.

Gemini is the distraction.

Credits is the predator, the subverter, the manipulator; he wants New England to stay the way it is because it benefits him perfectly. He knows without what he has, and if things changed, he'd lose most of his power.

Geminus was the idealist, but he got lost along the way, and depends on Jack as his moral compass. His mind keeps slipping in and out of reality, as he's lived so many lives after trying to get it right again, and again, and again. Credits is the bad in him. Jack is the good. Together they're balanced.

But they can't afford to be balanced anymore, because they're upsetting the balance by being stagnant.

I don't need notes or preparation to start this story.

This story is ready to tell itself. I need to trust my gut; my instincts; my understanding of my field. Whatever I need to make this work, I'll add, build, fashion; whatever gets the job done. That's what I'll use.

And I need to start seeing this as a war.

Jack must go to war from page 1.

***

Fading memories, like photographic stills.


Her hands in my hair. Feeling the back of my neck. Her laughter. Her dark eyes. Red lips. The way she smiled at me, looked at me, held me at arm's length whilst she nurtured me. My Gemini.

I turned my head to the side. There was no one else beside me. I was alone in my apartment. But there was still a mark where she'd been sat, an impression of her in the bed-sheets. I reached across and traced it with my fingers, my metallic fingers, and then clenched them into a fist. I balled my hands together and pressed them to my forehead and leaned into them and breathed.

Credits. That fucking bastard.

I stood up restlessly, walked across the tiled floor, saw my reflection in the window; blue jeans, black vest, hard shoulders, slim jaw, dark eyes, scruffy hair, haunted features.

I put my arm up on the glass and looked down at the city.

Smog hung over the districts. Electricity surged through the cloud. Live wires sparked from the corners of buildings. Watery humidity lined every window. There were no birds, no signs of life other than people. Trees cut through the fog, bony and wild, their veins alive in the night sky; electrical, blue, tethered-in. A stroke of lightning struck one of them from the cloud. The tree took it, used it, and then shook itself off; blue veins on fire.

The city was hardwired in. Everyone was out; drinking, fucking, smoking. But there was never any violence, at least not in the upper districts, not in the Gardens of Grace. Controlled hedonism; that was what New England was about now. That was all it was.

Jack clicked his tongue, stepped back, and turned around languidly. He paced the apartment in a daydream, looked sick and put out, then settled on the Buddhist statue on the mantle.

It had been a long time since he'd seen it. Whenever he did, he felt an old, familiar certainty, an easy sense of awareness that came to him at once and calmed his mind. He touched the shoulders of the statuette with a hand and felt the craftsmanship, the smooth bronze, the kind creases in his face and the weathered smile, the closed eyes; without judgement, without concern.

I got down on my hands and knees and prostrated myself. At once I felt an enormous pressure on my back and I began to tremble immediately. My hands flattened of their own accord, my head bowed, and I felt my feet reflexively adjust themselves so that my soles faced away from the mantle. I breathed out; hard, and flexed my fingers. Thoughts struck me; one after the other; like iron waves upon a rocky shore; and I gritted my teeth. Closed my eyes. Turned my head away.

Don't look aside.

I forced my eyes to rejoin the mantle. His kind face; those closed eyes.

Why haven't you done it yet?

I held myself steady, cold to his judgement.

I am not judging you, Jack. I'm asking why you haven't acted yet.

Because I don't know what action to take.

Show the world.

Show them what?

Show them what England really is. Show them what it's become. Show them New England.

How?

Show them all things beautiful. Everything you love. Then tear it down; all of it.

How will that help?

Show them what they've lost.

... I don't need to conform; I need to do my own thing; as an individual. I just need to do; not copy, not attempt to make things concise. I need to tell my own story, my own way, and when I feel like it's finished, that's when I'll know it's over. At the end.

The statue of Buddha sat with closed eyes and smiled.

Jack stood up and swayed slightly. He turned to go.

Jack.

I stopped and waited.

Get them off the internet first.

I nodded and left the room. But stopped to collect the crowbar on the way out.

***

In the lift. Going down. Crowbar in my hands. Bent between the blades of my knuckles, my fists. I ignore my reflection in the metal surfaces. The Union Jack tattoo on my neck the only colour to be seen. Red, white, and blue. Badly scarred; badly tarnished. I ignore my peripheral. I reach out and press the basement button again to distract myself. And again to be safe, then recline.

Five.

Four.

Three.

Two.

The lift stops. I stand there, expressionless. The door slides open.

Credits gets in.

Hello mate, with a smile.

I nod. One?

Yes mate, cheers.


I press the button for him, relax.

He's on his phone. Doesn't see the crowbar. Sways a bit as he stands there, hoodie up, chewing something. His eyes flit my way. Don't settle. Then do, meet mine, he smiles a bit; cheeky, self-assured, then a bit doubtful when he looks down and sees the crowbar.

I stare back.

He's got you busy, eh? What're you fixing now then?

The usual; everything.


Credits smirks. He lowers his phone a bit, vaguely interested, but then the lift goes and the doors open. He automatically steps forward, falters, looks at me strangely.

Should come out mate sometime; join us for a bad one.

Yeah. I'll do that, I smile tightly and nod.

Credits smiles back, returns to his phone, shows his back. I watch him out and reach for the elevator button and press it down hard. Prick.

The doors roll shut and the lift continues its descent.

I wait for the numerals to read:

Basement.

***
 
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OP
Writer

Writer

Rumination is self-destruction.
Banished
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
I stepped out into the basement.

The first thing I saw were the hanging bodies. And then the bodies at the tables, on the computers, the bodies without faces; without feelings. They were mechanical shells. They typed without rhythm, absent passion, on grey, dusty units for hours on end, and only stopped when something broke or fell away. One of them only had one hand. It had fallen onto the desk, and the A.I. had adjusted by typing with one finger, on one hand, her thumb striking the space-bar practically. Occasionally, she stopped and lifted her stub and turned her faceless face towards it strangely, as if wondering where it had gone, but then an alert sounded on the monitor, and she returned to her work. Sometimes her phantom limb tried to be involved, and her left hand fingers would hesitate, sensing a mistake, and she'd pause with her hand in her lap, and look around for assistance.

I came over, checked her work, and edited a spelling error. I then put my hand on her shoulder, she was tense, and squeezed. She settled and slowly returned to typing, her head vaguely tilted my way. I saw that she had written: ''Jack?'' on her word-processor.

A faded Union Jack tattoo was barely visible on her neck. The paint had chipped away, her shell corroded, and the wires that led into her chest had been chewed through by parasites; leaving all her internals exposed. If I wanted to, I could end it for her by pulling a wire, but a half-life was better than none, I always thought. I left her be. She was one of the old units; a prototype. She might've been me at one point, and I think that's what drove my sympathy.

I approached the console.

A long strew of computer monitors stretched the entire length of the wall. There were three chairs. One placed on the far left, the other the far right, and the last in the middle. Only one of them wasn't dirty.

I sat in my chair, put down the crowbar, and logged on.

If you don't commit to an idea, no one can call you out on it. You become a non-entity. A floating head in a black box spouting words that don't really mean anything.

I looked up at the screen. All the alerts were red. The screen glared red. I felt my eyelids falter over my eyes, but I pressed on; found what I was looking for. Gemini.

I opened up her profile. Her shadow self.

I should explain: when you go online, a user profile is created for you. This profile is you. Becomes you. Takes a piece of you for itself, known as time; this time increases ever so slightly each day, until your profile can predict who you are, what you like, where you'll be. These observations become predictions because they become a mathematical certainty the more time you put into your device. This is dangerous because the users are so predictable, and with enough empirical evidence our futures become certain. It is difficult to argue with a person's personality. And most users get caught up in this web of influence until their devices become second nature. They wake up to them, become normalised around them, and then no longer question where they came from; who operates them; for what purposes they've been sold to us. Our intellectual laziness kicks in due to a prolongation of habit. When actually, the phone was not there when we were born, it did not raise us, it does not nurture us, yet the users statistically give their devices more attention than their mothers, siblings, external environment... animals... even themselves.

The A.I. behind me stops her typing and turns my way. Faceless, her stare unnerves me. I look across to her and stare back. She does not look away, sat postured in a typing position, her body is stiff and unnatural. I wait to see if she'll do anything else, and when she doesn't, I return to the console.

Gemini is in the red. Her karma is bad, her statistics are poor, her longevity is uncertain. I'm devastated to see that the algorithm believes she won't last another ten years. Won't achieve her goals. Will expire or run out of subscription before accomplishing her current objectives. But there's still hope. Most users don't even have a goal. At least she has a struggle, I remind myself. As I check her interactions my eyebrows narrow and grow severe.

''You fucking bastard!'' I stand up and launch my chair across the room at Credit's seat. The two collide and smash into one another, and the two chairs crumple into their frames, bent and misshapen after the impact. One of them leans towards the floor in the aftermath and collapses entirely.

I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder. I turn and start, but it is only the faceless A.I.

She is expressionless. I look down at her hand. It is touching me how I touched her. I look back up at her face, her head is inclined slightly into a tilt, like a puppy; questioning her surroundings. Yet I feel her sincerity.

I reach up, clamp my hand around her wrist, and draw it down. I reach back, take the crowbar, and hand it to her. She holds it with a sense of unfamiliarity, tilts her head down to look at it, and then looks back at me; all without being able to see. The Union Jack on her neck stays with me. Behind us, the red glare of the console highlights a satanic halo around the back of my head. I stare at her thoughtfully for a moment and then ask her: ''Will you do something for me?''

She takes a moment to comprehend the question and then adjusts her body language to be more receptive and nods stiffly. I take her wrist and lead her to the console and sit her down in the remaining chair. She sits demurely with the crowbar in her lap, and keeps her head tilted up towards me attentively.

''I'm going to jack you in.'' I inform her. I get down on my knees and work the console and pull loose an input and find a loose panel by her shin and rip it free. She doesn't flinch. I insert the cable into her, stand up, and navigate the system. My eyes reflect the innumerable data leached from hundreds of thousands of tethered-in users as I pull up the console command window and open up a fresh process. Beside the window, I keep all of Gemini's projections in view, because I have a hunch.

Who are you? I ask her.

She looks at the screen, as if she can read what I've typed into the console, and then without having to lift her hand to type, she types back: I am Gemini #2.

I feel wretched. My throat constricts and I hang my head for a moment, forcing down the involuntarily temptation to vomit. I cannot vomit, but my system reproduces it so effectively that I feel dizzy for a moment after.

I huff through my nose and wet my lips and look back at the screen, read Gemini's data and how it's changed over the years, gone from good to bad in a matter of a decade; all because of that prick and his systematic abuse.

I stand up straight and walk over to the humming servers and pull off the sheets that guard them. There are tens of them, stretching throughout the basement like junior towers, their insides glowing red; vessels of corruption.

I walk the jagged rows. She watches from her chair, still plugged in. And I look across to her and think.

I walk back to her slowly, eye her in the red halo of the console, and she tracks me with her body language, and looks up at me once I'm near. I see her hand lying lax over the crowbar and know what I have to do.

Show her what you've lost.

I reach over the keyboard and start typing. She sits up straighter as soon as I start, more alert as the system starts to imprint itself onto her. I type faster, furiously, and I see her body language stiffen. Her hand buckles in and grips the crowbar and her entire body steels itself. Her face, or lack of, narrows at the brow and pinches in where her nose should be around where her eye-sockets ought to be. Her shoulders tremble and she stands up and is caught only by the cable inserted into her calf. The chair rocks behind her in her wake.

She pants without a mouth, face absorbed in the red light of the console, her head turning back and forth to look at the multitude of data we've collected over the years, all the karma we've lost. A thin, metallic screech reverberates from inside of the A.I, and she lifts the crowbar in her remaining hand and smashes it into the keyboard beneath my fingers. It splits in two, and in a fit of fury she attacks the console blindly, smashing in the screens and going so far as to climb onto the desk to get a better vantage of the monitors.

I step back and watch, eerily fascinated, but also wary. The A.I. systematically tears apart the console.

By the time she's done, the entire console is a wreck, spluttering sparks, error messages, and shards of broken glass. Her hardware is dented, face-plate scratched, knuckles split open from the force of impact. And the crowbar has been notched a few times over.

Weary and deflated, she turns towards me and registers me for the first time in ten minutes. I see her trembling, scared, grip white-knuckled. She does not approach. I do not either. I can tell she's full of questions. And when I don't give her any, her chest fills with violent compassion and another screech, this time louder and with more body, pierces the air. It's directed towards me. She rattles like a cobra.

Why. She's asking me. I know it. I can feel it on her. She's wary of me, stood with her feet apart and the crowbar out, she slithers off the broken desk smoothly and starts making her way towards me. I instinctively step forward, welcoming the challenge, which makes her hesitate. The crowbar in her hand falters. She's no longer stiff and naive. I've given her enough truth to fill her system with enough venom to make her loose and uncooperative. But she's still just a half-broken down bot, and she knows it.

I come towards her and she backs off and sweeps at me with the crowbar. It's a dummy blow and not meant to hit but to scare. I grasp it with an iron hand and bend her wrist backwards until the joints of her radius and ulna are on fire. She looks at me with a creased brow, but this time absent anger. Her fear has replaced her anger.

I reach around her wrist and slide the crowbar out from from beneath her fingers. She lets it go after a bit of a struggle.

You cannot be bitter. If you are bitter, then use it. Don't allow yourself to enter rumination; rumination is self-destruction.

I let her wrist go and she curls it around her stomach defensively. Her left hand stub hangs idle. She stands in a crouch, as if fearful that I'll hit her. Some of her anger still lingers, I notice. Burning beneath her shell. And her sounds are quieter; now all she does is hiss at me vaguely. There's fight in her still.

I turn and walk towards the servers. She watches me without moving. Then I grip the crowbar and swing it into one of the pylons. The surface crumples on impact and the whole unit rocks and stutters, the light inside flickering madly, and my shadow writhes around me. The fluorescent lights of the basement go out and stagger back to life. The A.I. tilts her head again, then steps forwards curiously. I feel her interest grow and I turn on the data-bank and lay into it until it's reduced to rubble. Only then do I look over my shoulder, air whistling through my teeth.

She's right there beside me, head tilted, fingers splayed out; they move as if searching for something. I'm not certain how she manages to see with her face-plate, but her senses are keen enough for her to have made it this far. For some reason, her lack of identity doesn't unnerve me, instead; I find it reassuring. Too often people lie with their faces. I find myself trusting her.

I offer her the crowbar, out of breath. Want to do the rest?

She looks at me, trippy, then reaches out uncertainly and takes it. I gesture to the rest, my chest rising and falling, sparsely aware of the Union Jacks on both our necks. She walks to the nearest server and places her foot against it and applies her weight until it keels over and crashes down, and then she sets on it; that anger inside her taking the forefront once again, which I watch and actively encourage. The caved-in console screen our witness, cast across one side of the room to the other, stuttering to try and output the visuals of the computer, which has been badly damaged, and is attempting to process a number of fatal errors.

I watch as she destroys the entire facility and the lights go out and the last monitor attached to the console shuts down, but not without a warning; a prediction. Without the internet, the algorithm predicts that the users will become unstable without access to their credit cards, bank accounts, social contacts, and predicted environment. They may indulge in reckless activities based on their natural instincts of preservation, such as looting, assault, and obstruction of government. I pull an appreciative expression and walk over to the console and reach beneath it for the interior of the computer and fish around inside the casing until I find the hard drive, which I then rip out; tearing the heart out of the system along with it. A few fleshy cables dangle out of the casing and spit acid as I grind the hard drive into an amalgamation of metal and filing in the palm of my hand.

On the way out of the basement, I stoop beneath a set of shelves and drag out a box of spare parts. The darkness is no problem for me, but I can hear the A.I. stumbling around, and I realise that she must have some sort of vision; if extremely limited.

No good to me like that, I take out a visor and a spare hand, stronger; military grade. I check the diagnostics on it, and as it comes to life and starts feeling around, I learn that it is part of a larger whole, which is also housed in the basement. I check the shelf number, they're all listed and filed by yours truly, and discover the rest of the military-grade hardware is only two shelves up.

I pull out three sets of containers filled with torsos, arms, and legs. Stainless steel, impact drives, carbon fibre to reduce weight; faster, stronger, punchy. That's what I want: punchy. Like me.

Hey.

I hear her hear me. She looks around in the dark and pursues the sound of my voice, the crowbar scraping along the floor behind her.

When she appears, still panting, her exterior scraped up, I lift the visor over her head and strap it to the back of her skull. She reaches up with her stub and touches it, then winces in awe when I turn it on. She looks around, seeing things she's never seen before, outlines and hard details, even the dust in the air. I see her marvel at these like a child in her first snowstorm, and whilst she's busy and distracted I fit her with the hand. She stops what she's doing to watch me do it, and then lifts the new hand before her visor. It is admittedly beautiful, a marvel of engineering, and as intricate and capable as if it were real. She looks at me past her raised wrist and her visor glitches. Only it isn't a glitch. She's trying to communicate. A single word spells itself out on her headset: Who?

Our father. Geminus.


She ruminates on this and the hand, then: Where?

He's gone. Busy off-world; off-server.

... Why?


I don't answer her except with a look and focus on taking her apart instead. She relaxes whilst I swap out her parts. It isn't much of a process, even as I transfer her head to her new body. He built us to be self-serving, and the pieces fit like pieces of a puzzle.

Once I'm done, I let her get used to her new body and then scruff her roughly. She seizes up and attempts to fight back. But I'm stronger. I pin her to the wall, deflect the hand that goes for my throat, and pin her back down with my hands and knees, this time there's no hand and she just struggles in vain. I apply pressure to every part of her body and that high-pitched sound forms in her throat fearfully. I think she thinks that I gave her hope just to take it away. That I'm about to be cruel. But I'm not.

Listen. This is bigger than you; or me; what we're about to do, we only get one shot at. Geminus will come after us. The whole server will come after us. There's another bot. His name is Credits. He's likely already on his way here. Any moment now, I'm going to get an emergency call asking what the fuck is going on. We're going to track his IP address from that call and intercept him and fuck him up. Do you get me?

Gemini looks at me through the visor with her head tilted back and her chin up. She strains for a second longer, instinctively I think, and then relaxes once she's processed my message. She saw the raw data on the console. She knows who Credits is. If she is modelled after who I think she is, then...

Her visor lights up and an emoticon scrolls across her face-plate: 凸(`д´)凸 FUCK 凸(`д´)凸 CREDITS 凸(`д´)凸 !!!

I smile and let her go. As I move to leave, I'm glad to discover she takes the first step with me. When I stop, she stops. She even waits.

We're synced, whilst the rest of the world outside those doors has just been torn apart.
 
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OP
Writer

Writer

Rumination is self-destruction.
Banished
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.” - Frank Zappa.
 
OP
Writer

Writer

Rumination is self-destruction.
Banished
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
Over-saturated.
 
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