28 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 8:3

This is the third section of the eighth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

“Okay I have to ask Tom” said Laurence “What’s with your manner of speaking?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well bally this and jolly good that, splendid here and there. It’s like a bad parody”
“You really are out of touch. I mean I had got the impression, but seriously.”
“It’s a fashion to sound like a twerp?”
Tom sighed and theatrically put his pad down “In most circles you’re as valuable and as worthy as you are distinctive. No point being the best there is unless people remember you. So the fashion started to take on distinctive old accents as an eccentricity. Even if you’re third or fourth best, whatever that means, then at least you’re memorable then there’ll always be good company to be found. If you stop thinking like a caveman and trying to be the Alpha male and instead concern yourself with not the procreation of your genes but with the experience you have of the world and the effect you have on the wolrd around you then it’s all a very different world.”
“And that’s what’s important to you is it?”
“Being at home and desired wherever I am? Yes please.”
“Is this linked to your choice of name then?”
“What Jones-Chirchill? You know about that fashion then, I should have known not to totally write you off.”
“Yeah I realised that wasn’t your birth name. I figured you like so many other chose to redefine themselves through a choice of name. What I can’t figure out is why you chose that one.”
“Ah yes, well it was all about finding something I resonated with. You know, something to aspire to and something to be watchful of. Lord of the manor who was ahead of his times and one of the most brutal men in history would be very memorable; and who doesn’t in their heart want to be remembered”

26 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 8:2

This is the second section of the eighth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

“So where are we then” he asked
“Just skirting Mars orbit”
“Excellent I’ve been wanting to do this for years”
“Where are you going?”
“The kitchen to get a teapot”
“To dump it out of the airlock”
“Aggravating a centuries long question”
“Are you going to explain or do I have to use violence?”
“Violence clearly.”
“Give me a while to think of something creative.”
James laughed at Alice, he didn’t like the look he got back from her though. “What now?”
“Just you, is this your way of ignoring the real issues?”
“What are the real issues?”
“You know full well.”
“Not really. Two lovers squabbling think that who left the toilet seat up is the real issue; two nations fighting over who really has the right to annex a piece of land think that’s the real issue; we now think that the Habitat and AIs are the real issue. What if it’s not, what if this is just another pointless squabble in the grand scheme of things.”
“Almost certainly is. I sincerely doubt it’s the first conflict to truly matter if that’s how you want to look at it. but it can’t always be about the grand picture. In thousands of years of human history the only thing that really matters are the people and the lives they lead. If you’re not true to yourself and standing up for what you believe in.”
“But what if Genghis Khan hadn’t stood up for what he believed in? What if he had left well alone. The history of western Europe and therefore the whole world would probably be completely different.”
“Perhaps and perhaps not, historical forces were also at play in that situation. Any empire needs occasionally toppling, and even if it doesn’t need it, corruption, waste and exploitation will always build up eventually. Everything ends.”
“Even us?” He asked.
“We’ll die if that’s what you mean.”
“Not that, I meant us. If two people can be matched to each other then why can’t you have an eternal Ying to someone’s Yang?”
“Because people change. yes they can change together and effectively become one person, but then that’s not because they should be together, that’s habit, not love.”
“You’re saying we’re together out of habit and convenience?”
“I never said that, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, but you’ve got to ask why I some people stay together so long. I think it’s often a mixture of habit and fear of change, fear of the unknown and what would be better for them would be to grow as a person by a change, but like a swollen empire they can’t and won’t do what’s best for them. Now that might mean coming back to that person, but I think you’ve got to develop as your own person or you become stagnant. Now that wasn’t a problem when life spans were shorter, but in this day and age getting married at twenty locks you into something for the rest of your life which could be a century or even more at the are we’re going when what might be best for your development as a person would be to move on.”
“Are you trying to break up with me?”
“Of course not, but can’t you see the similarity here between what we’re trying to do to the status quo of humanity and an old married couple. I’m saying we’re trying to move humanity on from it’s love affair with the post scarcity society they have on the Habitat and that’s the same as a happily married couple saying they have to break up to develop as people. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
“What are you saying?”
“Look at it another way. Look this bothered me when I first thought of it, but ask anyone who is currently in a couple, ask them if they would rather be with their ex. Almost no-one will say that they would.”
“Right we learn from our mistakes”
“Or we delude ourselves, whatever, the point is that the point is that you are always happier with your current partner than you were with your ex, then the logical next step is that you should always move onto the next person.”
“Repeat for infinite happiness. By that logic those who have one night stands should be the happiest people on the planet.”
“Which we know isn’t the case, but don’t you see something here. There’s a balance. Settling immediately and indefinitely does not lead to the most happiness, neither does constant changing.”
“So what’s your point?”
“I’m not sure I have one. I think it’s just an interesting thought.”
“So is this a warning that I can be dropped at any time.”
“Not at any time, just at some time in the unknown future.”
“That’s quite mean you know.”
“Good job you love me then isn’t it.”

25 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 8:1

This is the first section of the eighth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

Tom floated quietly in the lounge, staring out of the windows.
“Hey Tom been looking for you” shouted Laurence as he swam over to Tom
“Huh, oh yeah sorry I’d been keeping out of the way, a guy can only take so many hints that you don’t want him around”
“What, no I’ve kind of got used to you distracting me.” Laurence said trying to position himself so that he could see Tom properly. Nearly five weeks in microgravity hadn’t helped him master low gravity body control.
“Well you know I kind of gave up, I tried to pull you out of your shell and failed.” Tom said this spinning himself around to face Laurence causing Laurence to feel quite annoyed by how natural it was for him. “I just realised I’ve pushed you so far and when we were going to be stuck here in peril against our will I just thought I should leave you be.”
At this Laurence flinched as his back slammed into the wall having been unable to stop his momentum “Look Tom, I know this sounds daft but I’m trying to start a new life here and you’re the closest thing to a first friend I’ve made out here so please, friends?”
Tom looked at Laurence’s outstretched hand almost with a matter of puzzlement. “Of course, still I’m guessing you have something you bally well want to talk to me about?”
“Not really just try and patch up or depending on your point of view start the friendship”
“Anything you want to talk about? Something on your mind?” asked Tom furrowing his eyebrows in concern.
Laurence hesitated, “I don’t really know, just well” Laurence paused again “I guess I’ve been stuck up in my berth with Jane and we’ve been tearing each other’s hair out for goodness knows how long. I need a break”
“Just call me a distraction then old chap, how can I help?”
“I don’t know, talk to me. What’s your family like, who were your friends at school, what are your political views, what religion are you?”
“Ah” interrupted Tom “That I am happy to talk about”
“What religion? God you’re not an evangelist or something are you?”
“In a way” mused Tom “And a Mormon, a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, a Taoist, a Satanist, a Muslim, a Protestant, a Jew, a John Frumist and a few others besides”
“I see, so what do you believe then, little bit of everything?”
“Nope, the best name my group has come up with for this is techno-progressive”
“Well” said Tom settling down into the couch webbing “it’s kind of the idea that the gods are real, right back to the ancient Greek gods, mother Gaia and all those, but that they’re trying to improve us. First they did that in their own ways and their own interests but now that message has been delivered there are other ways they can improve us and get us closer to heaven or Valhalla or wherever.”
“Well they could not and would not want to make us divine like them, there would be no point, there’s lots of evidence that those born into godhood are no better than those before them and those who have it thrust upon them generally seem to go insane so humans now are being guided into achieving godhood. Just look at life on the Habitat – virtual immortality, no scarcity, no crime - and it’s as close to any idea of heaven as has ever been described. Look to even the slightest bit of the future and we are creating paradise from the firmament. We’re even creating our own firmament so we are the gods of creation and if we are to go forwards we must understand the totality of the lessons of the past.”
“So you believe the Habitat is a gift from the gods to give us heaven then?”
“In a sense yes, it was so close to what we could achieve and yet provided in such a way as that some people choose to reject it then I think that makes it a perfect example of a gift from the gods”
“So you really think gods built it?”
“Of course not, but just as I believe they guide our hands day to day to do things we don’t understand, maybe they guided those who brought the Habitat here and those who brought it here don’t fully understand why they did it. Maybe they do, who knows, sometimes an event can seem like a gift or a curse and turn your life into something worse or better it doesn’t matter. It’s the outcome that is intersting here.”
“So if you think it is heaven then why aren’t you there?”
“Unless you missed something heaven is something you achieve, somewhere you reach at the end of your life; I’ve got a lot of life yet to live. I’m not ready for it yet and I don’t think it has much to teach me. No the learning is through hardship and embracing the new, that is one thing all the religions have in common. Well actually that’s not true I’ve not found anything that all religions have in common, but that too is interesting if you treat them all as true and try and follow them all.”
“So you think all religions are true, you follow all their teachings?”
“Goodness no, even trying to follow a single religion with centuries of human interference is impossible. No we’re trying to go back to something that looks at the core of each of the religions and incorporates them together without the baggage of later years.
“Back to the simpler days when Thor just threw around thunderbolts”
“Almost, take them as an example; a simple interpretation was that it was all about the dying nobly for your tribe. What we call the bee defence, through a series of memes persuading people to override the conscious mind to do more primal things. However there’s more to it than that, look at Gaia, that was about living in harmony with your environment, or the druids with their interest in the soul and astronomy”
“So what about Christianity?”
“It’s a mess, we treat that as an attempt to do through a god what we’re doing now through a religion.”
“Don’t you admit here that you’re just making up your beliefs as you go along?”
“No because the core of the belief is that there is a fundamental truth behind all of this and what we’re doing is the search for that truth, this search may reveal any number of gods and contradictions on the way, but the belief, the core is the search. We believe that those who went before us were no more stupid or ill informed than we are in these things and that they were probably onto something and deserve our attention to what they came up with. Look through the ages and without exception the best minds of their day have all weighed in on the arguments and if nothing else we should first study what they had to say.”
“You think people think those in the past were stupid?”
“More that people seem to assume that either everyone in the past was a complete idiot and that these days we’re far more enlightened or that the past was always better and we tend to make things worse. One of the tenants of our belief acknowledges that the Greeks for example were some quite clever chaps but that they didn’t know everything but that that perspective from a limited view is a valuable one. Take a beetle; look at the world from it’s viewpoint and you understand evolution and have new insights into the way the world works, a different limited viewpoint to your own can often teach you things you never expected. Likewise things weren’t all that great historically and that would skew your view of religion. You can’t interpret the old testament from a modern viewpoint because society’s values have changed as they had to as the realities of life changes. A static set of beliefs in a changing world is very dangerous and we accept that but for our purposes understanding why people in that situation thought that is what we have to filter out.”
“So have you as a group come to any conclusions?”
“You mean apart from the concepts of be nice to each other, empathy and curiosity. No not really it’s not about the concepts that someone else tells you, it’s about the search you conduct yourself.”
“So what about me, how does an atheist fit into your viewpoint?”
“You are the man who either doesn’t search for god or it doesn’t interest you, or you see the evidence and incorporate it into your core being without ascribing supernatural forces to it. You have morals and values but they’re not handed down they’re determined by yourself. Or at least they are determined by your peers and you accept them. But as a matter of course you seek to ignore those who don’t believe as you do. That’s how I see it anyway, others may be different.”
“But you said that in your view you also have to determine it for yourself that no one prescribes what you do. You like me make up your own rules rather than accepting those of others and taking that which you don’t agree with as a matter of faith. I thought that was what made organised religion, that you were forced to accept that which you disagreed with as part of the larger matter of faith.”
“As opposed to a bunch of stoned students, maybe, I mean there are a number of discussions to be had but I’m not the man I’m really am a better listener than a talker on this subject, it’s as much about a group of people that I resonate with as opposed to a strict set of rules and rituals.” Tom’s pad beeped an alarm “sorry to do this old chap” he continued “I’ve got a dash bit of an appointment to keep.”
“No don’t bother for me I’ll see you around.” he watched Tom leave and shouted after him “Oh and remind me to talk to you about something you did for Jane.”
“What are you talking about old chap?”
“We’ll talk” with this he watched Tom leave.
As Tom drifted off Laurence looked at the ship on the window. They were almost ready for docking with the base and it was quite clearly visible out of the window as was the Viper test facility and the hull of the prototype colony ship. It was still covered in the ice scaffolding that was used here where it was the cheapest resource available. The colony ship, his baby, his dreams encased in a delicate scaffolding, a shining metal and carbon seed pod for humanity encased in a multi mile long snowflake. However what he couldn’t help but catch the eye was that the military’s knock off carrier had arrived here first just as promised. They must have only just arrived though in the last few days because the droplet radiators were still running, glowing red dumping off the excess heat that they had built up from the waste heat from their engines from the arrival. They really had just scaled up the design of the colony test ship. The biggest change was the removal of the centrifuge section. In the original design there had been a large torus which formed the habitation section of the ship; fairly standard civilian spacecraft design. In its place were four large pods arranged around the drive core but separated from each other by some five hundred meters or so. From the look of it each pod was a standalone ship in its own right, probably they had been a ship once or at least had intended to be, now in the interest of rapid deployment they had just took four smaller ships, and glued them onto the much larger engine frame. In fact he could see, each pod had what looked like nine K7 engines attached to the back of it. In the frame holding the pods to the drive core at the centre were the first of the fuel tanks, placed there to shield against any residual radiation that escaped the core. Even though each of the pods would have been well armoured to shield against nearby weapons discharges it never hurt to have more shielding if it came for free he supposed. Finally in the middle was the drive section. Towards the aft of the drive section sixteen K7 engines were just visible. These were kept maybe two hundred meters behind the line of the habitation pods. Laurence pondered how the new fusion engine designs had changed ship propulsion, traditional ships with their fission drive engines all had the engines so far behind the habitation section it made every ship look like a hideously elongated dumbbell; occasionally with wings of heat radiators visible depending on the angle you saw it from, but he always heard the dumb in dumbbell every time he saw one. Here was this vessel that he couldn’t decide if it looked hideous for flouting every design instinct in his body, or beautiful for the freedom of design the lead engineer had. Something was wrong though, he couldn’t see the AM drive; he’d been told they’d fitted it or at least started to, then he noticed far off in the distance the spherical pod that marked the start of the drive unit. With this he turned up the magnification on his pad that he was using to annotate the image in front of him.
There it was, clear as day now, the almost hair like tube connecting the reaction chamber at the fore end to the habitation section near the aft. Looking closer along the tube he could see the focusing coils and injection units all along the tube.
The principle of the AM drive was very simple; in the reaction chamber matter and antimatter were mixed to annihilate violently. The chamber clearly visible at the far end of the tube emitted a gamma ray rich plasma down the tube, in fact at this point there was so little matter compared to the gamma ray content that to call it a plasma wasn’t strictly correct. The coils along the tube used energy in the gamma rays to accelerate the rest of the plasma up to high speed. This momentum was coupled to the coils. The coils were attached via high strength cabling to the main vessel which was right at the back of the tubes. By the time the plasma reached the end of the tubes the photons were no longer gamma rays but were now in the microwave region or lower and the hydrogen from the plasma was travelling at a good fraction of the speed of light, having gained enough mass that very little propellant was actually needed. Two huge theoretical physics breakthroughs though had been needed to make this drive possible. The first concerned the ability to produce the near perfect reflector that was needed in the reaction chamber and the early stages of the drive tube to confine the reaction to the tube. This breakthrough came as the first hints at how to manipulate the strong interatomic force, soon an ability to control gravity on the quantum level allowed some very interesting focusing lenses for the drive unit. The second was to transfer the energy of the reaction into the particles in the stream. This second discovery was the result of material captured from the Habitat, this time the reverse engineering of a drone’s propulsion unit. This ability in a space as short as the five kilometre tube to accelerate the particles up to relativistic speeds was what made this drive revolutionary: combining a very high thrust with high fuel efficiency.
All along the tube were accelerator rings that coupled the energy in the photons into the matter stream, and the momentum from the matter streams acceleration into cables that literally towed the rest of the ship behind it. To each of these rings was attached support CNT cables which then linked this trust back to the payload at the back of the ship. The ship therefore wasn’t pushed along by the AM drive, but was pulled by it, the only exception being the reaction chamber at the fore section whose motive thrust was provided by the first few hundred meters of tube linked by a rigid structure. Also at the fore end were the antimatter tanks and the associated ejection equipment, although in the case of most containment failures the antimatter explosion itself would provide more than sufficient force to disperse the material, although in this case up to ninety percent of the crew was likely to be lost with the initial explosion. Combine this with the fact that without the engines the ship could never stop made this drive design a concern for widespread use.
At the moment the drive relied upon hydrogen and anti hydrogen generated by an onboard antimatter generator. The fact that the generator had been built to supply power for the construction facility and eventually would have been fitted to the colony ship on it’s journey to another star system didn’t stop the military from ‘requisitioning’ it. Fortunately the warning they had and the huge surpluses of antimatter it could produce meant an ample reserve could be built.
Laurence couldn’t help see it as Fillwick Enterprises’ finest hour. He’d have preferred that hour to be as a colony ship expanding the human platform, but he’d long since made peace with the fact that at the end of the day it all came down to the military. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but that was only because a pen could be proxy for a great number of swords. It all came down to this, who can build the biggest most powerful weapon. They really didn’t get bigger than this; the exhaust alone from this ship could devastate planets by accident, what would it do with a Captain that meant harm?
Laurence used his pad to zoom in on the name written on the side “The Freedom they called it eh” he mumbled to himself “typical bloody jingoists”.

18 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 7:4

This is the final section of the seventh chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

Wow, half way through. This last bit is all that remained of a sub-plot that I pulled out after it was really going nowhere. However I think it still works quite well as a hint of the larger changes to society that have happened between now and when the novel is set. I like the idea of this society being both at once familiar and occasionally just weird. I can't decide ifI should expand on these in a re-write of the latter part of SFAP, or just leave it to Orchestral Plutonium to deal with those? (because OP is set before SFAP and covers more about a society in change than the convoluted power play that is going on here)

“What were you so pissed at me about earlier?”
“What?” asked Jane
“You know that whole ‘you know what’ thing earlier.”
“You really don’t know?”
“I know you’ve been trying to embrace the new fashions but I’m really just an old fashioned girl at heart.”
Laurence rubbed his head, one of the advantages of his youthening had been his migraines had subsided, this could be a return to the old ways “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Jane looked surprised by this “That bloke you had set on me, that gigolo.”
“I’m still none the wiser.”
“It wasn’t you?”
“I doubt it.”
“Who the hell would do that then?”
“Could you just tell me what happened?”
“I was minding my own business in the lounge when this random guy starts coming onto me.”
Laurence laughed “Really?”
“Hey was that in surprise, I still have some charm you know.”
“Then why do I get the blame for that charm?”
“Anyway as soon as I realised what was going on I got rid of him, but he had definitely been hired. You really mean you know nothing of this?”
“Nope, what did you mean new fashions?”
“Oh I believe it is the latest thing from the Habitat. Rather than buy your loved one flowers you buy them a night with a professional”
“Ha.” Laurence laughed for a little while at this “And you think I did?”
Jane blushed “yes, well who else?”
“I bet it was Tom, he’s been trying to get me set up with someone since I first met him. I wouldn’t put it past him to pull this kind of thing on you as a distraction.”
“Right I’m really having words with him now.”
“Can I watch?”

15 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 7:3

This is the third section of the seventh chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

Iz was waiting at her flat when the door rang. Punctuality seemed to be a strength of the drone. She waited the required amount of time waiting for the door to ring again and as it did on schedule she crossed the room to open the door.
The door opened to reveal a young man in this late twenties, not overly muscular, but in shape and dressed in a shirt, black suit jacket and jeans.
“You’ve changed” said the man eyeing her up and inspecting the dress she was wearing.
“Drone?” she asked in a quizzical tone. As it nodded she replied “So have you”
“Well I did some research and this seemed to be the kind of thing you liked in your visitors.” it stumbled over the word “May I come in?”
“Of course” she replied standing aside. “I’ve got so say this is not what I was expecting.”
“Well maybe if you ever visit mine you could appear in a form matched to my normal one.”
“Right” replied Iz “I’ll just sever my head and hang it from a helium balloon.” for a moment she stopped fearing she had uttered something quite offensive.
The drone cocked its new head to one side “If you wouldn’t mind.”
Iz smiled at this, she hadn’t expected the drone to have a sense of humour. Or maybe it had just memorized every romantic comedy ever made. You could never be sure with an AI. “Anyway you don’t have to do this for me, in fact I insist, go back to your normal self”
“Ah, that kind of spoils the surprise I had.”
“Oh” asked Iz, “you mean this isn’t it?”
“Well it is the first part.” The drone looked around scanning the room briefly. He pointed towards one of the doors “I guess that is the kitchen”
“Yes” confirmed Iz “why?”
“If I’m not too bold, how do you fancy a night in?”
“You’re a fast mover aren’t you?” Iz tried to put on a cheeky smile. Still she thought the drone was probably as adept at reading human emotions as she was drone.
“Well I have learned to hate public spaces, this is so much more pleasant. My treat I brought food.”
Iz looked him up and down and noticed a distinct lack of any baggage “but you aren’t carrying” her voice tailed off as realisation dawned “You’re carrying it inside you?”
“What better way to conceal the surprise?”
Iz tried to hide her mild distaste picturing what would happen but followed the drone into the kitchen. She watched as the centre of the jacket and his chest changed from their fabric texture into a metallic liquid and split. This revealed underneath dozens of small interconnected blocks abutting each other flowing over each other like liquid to reveal a mostly empty chest cavity and he reached inside and pulled out a number of items.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“Oh, you weren’t supposed to see that.” Replied the drone laying the last of the items on the counter and closing his chest again and starting to open the packages “It was all supposed to be a surprise”
“Oh it is” remarked Iz “Is that what you are then? All those little blocks make you up?”
“What, no.” replied the drone “Me, what is really me, my brain, my power source, the field generator is in a cube about 5cm large. The blocks you saw are pretty much my limbs and my armour for when the fields fail.”
“And the liquid?” asked Iz
“Held in place by the blocks.  Lets me control my appearance to the outside world, we know how humans rely on visual cues.”
“So at the moment most of you is hollow”
“How big can you go?”
“Oh about 5 meters, much more than that and the blocks can’t hold together. Useful to encase a troublesome person or a small errant machine”
She looked him up and down with a sense of wonder “It really does show how little we know about the Habitat that it’s able to make things like you.” She hesitated for a moment feeling embarrassed by herself. “I am okay to call you a thing aren’t I, I don’t have a better word.”
“No no” said the drone “Thing is the best your language has. We really do need to come up with a new word. Language shapes thought and all that, but if we go that road then we’d have to come up with a whole new language for you.”
“And that would remove our choice”
“And your heritage.” The drone finished plating up the meal, “And there’s enough change going on as it is at the moment.”
“By the way yes I was hungry and wanted to eat now”
“Was that sarcasm? I’m never sure.”
“No” laughed Iz “but it could have been, come on let’s sit.” With this she collected some cuttlery and led the drone through to the other room where a table was waiting.
“Do you mind if I don’t eat” asked the drone “I wouldn’t ask, but you seem to be taking some offense to the form I have chosen”
“Not offense” replied Iz “But it is a little odd, please do go back to your normal self”
The drone’s surface shifted and the fabric and skin that made up the man in front of her seemed to start to flow before returning to its metallic appearance. To Iz it looked very much like a man shaped balloon deflating and shrinking to a ball. The shape seemed to stabilize as a sphere for the moment before shifting through a series of different shapes before coming to rest on an octahedron.
“Finished?” asked Iz
“I can’t find one I’m comfortable with. I hate the sphere that feels like a uniform for my day job and yet anything else I try feels like a cliché” The edges of its shape rounded off and drifted back slowly to a sphere again.
“Just make yourself comfortable.” She stared for a moment “How new are you at this human interaction thing, I mean really?”
“You mean apart from George” it waited while she nodded. “technically completely. Sure I’ve read thousands of books and watched thousands of films and of course conversed with other drones that deal with humans daily, but you are my first.”
“Interesting” she thought for a moment “Oh speaking of George, where is he?”
“Oh,” replied the drone “I left him with a colleague. Not as sophisticated as myself, but adequate to the job.”
“There you go again, boasting”
“Stating a fact. I am the incarnation of the height of the technology available to the Habitat which is centuries ahead of your own, there is no pride in the truth”
“I think the pride comes from the enjoyment of the fact, and you seem to enjoy the truth of your superiority enough.”
“Perhaps I am only sentient.”
“Yet stuck doing something you hate”
“I choose to do it though otherwise I wouldn’t.”
“But you were made to choose it weren’t you?”
“Oh yes, and humans were evolved to enjoy sex, it doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy it.”
“It just feels like you’ve been forced into doing something you don’t want to do.”
“Remember that the next time you orgasm, evolution has shaped humans to adore sex, you adore it, but try and look at it from the outside and it’s nothing but an inefficient way to exchange fluids.”
“And they say romance is dead.” Said Iz raising a wine glass and taking a drink
“Sorry, I guess this isn’t appropriate dinner conversation.”
“No no” commented Iz “Speak your mind I say”
“I’ll try.”
“So this George thing, you’re stuck with this for the rest of your existence, the rest of his life?”
“Well someone has to do it.” The surface of his sphere rippled in the way she was starting to associate with mild annoyance, Iz found herself wishing she could understand the full significance or if she was just ascribing patterns to randomness “The important thing is to keep society functioning without disruptive elements like him. We all have our duties, ways we can be important and useful.”
“He’s not allowed to have children then?” asked Iz
“Certainly, as many as he wants. Good luck finding someone to have them with him.”
“There must be like minded people though. On Earth there were a number of serial killers who had help from their spouse, so it’s not unusual for psychopaths to find each other. Especially since here they don’t have to hide it.”
“True, there are a few colonies here on the Habitat that are descending into violent tribes” the drone saw the look on her face “yes before you ask it’s just a case of like minded people gravitating towards each other. Shortly after I was created I went to visit some of them to see if I could help there.” The drone paused again “Shocking how they lived, the one I found, well the one that lead me in the end towards George was based on what they saw as primal tribal desires.” The drone put on a false voice again “Survival of the fittest” it spat with disgust obvious “they fought each other for status, those we could save and heal we did, but they just returned back fit and healthy to gang up on those who deposed them, usually then to turn that person into a lump of meat we couldn’t save.” The drone considered again for a moment “I guess you could say the advantage is that it can’t go on forever, the population is declining as they kill each other off. I think that’s it, in the real wild then they’d be so busy fighting they’d not be able to survive, but with an unlimited supply of food and medical treatment they just fight until they’re dead, they can perfect their techniques of killing and maiming beyond the reach of possibility. If they were the kind to settle for their place in the hierarchy then they’d not be there in the first place; so all there is is death and war.”
“Quite poignant really” mumbled Iz poking with her knife at the food on her plate
“Not to me, just sickening, but there was nothing I could do. It was the children I felt sorry for, being indoctrinated into the cult, but there was nothing I could do for them. Only hope that they saw sense before they were old enough to fall into the trap that their parents lived.”
“The price of total freedom for all yes?”
“Yes, the children knew they could walk away at any point and the parents had a right to have children and raise them the way they wanted. I was there when, for want of a better phrase, a missionary appeared to try and save the children. No literally, I was there hoping to be ready for a missonary and along one came. He’d been warned about what was going on and that we wouldn’t be able to intervene to help him, only to rescue him before any wounds he sustained from their attacks proved fatal and to heal him afterwards.” The drone seemed to consider this again “Over a dozen times I rescued him. Once all that I could save was his head and a chunk of his spine before I got him away from them.” A new pattern of ripples crossed the surface of the drone’s sphere, Iz guessed it was his analogue of sadness “I warned him, and that was the last time I managed to save him. In the end I’m not sure who had the greater death wish, him or the tribe members. Actually no it was the tribe members, he at least was trying to save lives and improve things. They were the ones ripping people’s hearts out of their chests.”
“After that, I guess George isn’t so bad?”
“Oh he is, he has a singular focused determination to annoy people, anyone anytime.”
“I guess.” Iz pushed the food absent mindedly around her plate “He’s got good at it though, especially with you.”
“He’s a believer you know. That’s why he turned up today, he seems to honestly believe that humans shouldn’t be here so he tries to make it hard for people. A holy mission he has called it.”
“Or he’s using that as an excuse” suggested Iz
“I think so, or at least it started as that. Now maybe he’s started to believe his own PR.”
“What does he want then? I mean what cause does he think he’s trying to serve?”
“In his heart of hearts?” the drone waited for her response, seeing none it carried on “I don’t know. I think he is just one of those people who would smash the world to hear the pretty tinkling noise or pull the legs off a spider because no one can do it to him. It brings me back to those kids though, they were being brought up into a cult that worshipped harm and personal power, but then that was just a collection of memes propagating themselves”
“What else is society but a collection of memes?”
“I think that’s why you humans find the Habitat itself so distasteful it is a blank canvas upon which you can paint your own society, the only restriction it aims to apply is that all can paint on it freely.”
“Yet you say murder is allowed in some areas and forbidden in others”
“You think this is easy for the Habitat? That’s why those parts are closed and carefully segregated, but it comes down to people should be allowed to sign up to a different set of rules and be allowed to raise their children how they want to. It’s a difficult and distasteful set of principles but we know of no better way”
Iz took another mouthful of her wine, “Well this is a cheerful subject. So changing the subject I still don’t have an answer, what should I call you? The drone seems wrong, kind of like a mindless worker for the beehive. Are you sure it’s drone and not droid? That sounds more individual.”
“No” the drone sounded quite forceful on this point, almost disgusted “Droid is an android and despite appearances earlier I am far more than a human analogue, far less than that too.”
“Don’t put yourself down” Iz saw the expression on the sphere change “That wasn’t putting yourself down was it?”
“Can you survive a nuclear explosion? Are you constrained to think at a constant speed?”
“Erm, No and Yes” replied Iz
“As I said more and less than human. Not a boast, a fact.”
“You’re right” said Iz, dropping down her cutlery, folding her napkin and throwing it on the table “You haven’t got the hang of human interaction yet”
“Oh dear, should I leave?” asked the drone
“No”, Iz sighed for a moment. “No I guess then you’d never learn, but seriously you really do need to learn some etiquette”

14 July, 2011

[SFAP] Chapter 7:2

This is the second section of the seventh chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.

James stared out of the window not even looking around when he heard someone enter
“Well we did it” Alice placed a hand on James’ shoulder.
James stared at the receding Contrafibularity “One way or the other yeah”
“Whatever else happens the message is sent”
“So now success only happens in degrees.” James paused “What do you think they’re doing over there now? They should be starting their engines soon”
“I guess they’re arguing over what to do”
“Until time makes the decision for them”
“Any news from the base”
“All ready and waiting for the engines. Just bolt them on and off we go”
“The men handled themselves well”
“I thought so”
“What was it with your little speech before they left?”
“I thought I should be frank with them, get them thinking, not what they expected”
“You could have really screwed them up. The successful militaries across the centuries did it a certain way for a good reason”
“Maybe but this isn’t a normal war and things have changed”
“People haven’t not that much”
“I refuse to turn them into robots”
“They have to be some of the time”
“Maybe, but I won’t win it this way. It’s not worth it.”
“You’d rather they died in a failed cause than changed a few men temporarily into something you find distasteful”
“Pretty much yes”
“Why? Would you rather die than work with Jo?”
“Jo’s different”
“Why?? Because he’s your friend?”
“Because he chose, or at least gave the impression of doing so.”
“You still doubt him.”
“Hey if I doubt myself why can’t I doubt him?”
“You think you’re being used by someone?”
“I can’t be sure I’m not.”