all the parts are being printed out and assembled by the maternal instincts of a bed-sized Constructor robot which is extruding the limbs and heart of the plastic and metal pseudohominid.
You only like things that look like yourselves. And perhaps that’s why the bees went extinct. That’s probably why you don’t connect with trees either; when all of the plants died, you all forgot what real trees looked like. I remember when your whole planet was covered with trees. It was nice. I’m sure that the trees would have evolved to be more poisonous with their caffeine if they knew you guys were going to come along. Maybe the lichen that covers the poles will get the memo. Unless something happens, those mercury-laden lichen are just fine.
It was printed out, a machine birth, if you will. At this point, the technology developed by the humans was just astounding. Electronic circuit boards, harnessing the quantum level of nature, could make that plastic and metal woman come to life. There would be no womanly features on this artificial person, however. Nor any male traits. The robots that were built in this society are androgynous by design. They were not build for personality, but for personal labor.
Not that people wouldn’t make friends with a robot. That was quite common. There were only a few fuddy-duddies that didn’t come around to the zeitgeist. They still were hollering for nation-states, too, so I don’t give much credence to their gesticulations and demonstrations and late night vigils.
The full component list of a Charlie-Tango-Delta-One-Three-Foxy was pretty complex, especially to someone like me who couldn’t begin to read those schematics. All I know is that the robot was made from nothing.
The face is a bit of a joke, though. It seems that this model of robot was not made to be a sex robot of any kind. This false creature has a solid plated face, no moving parts. The voice emulation is very precise.
“Starting the main program run... All finished. I’m ready to be tested,” the robot flawlessly spoke. “My name is Charlie-Tango-Delta-One-Three, and my transmission code is Gamma Gamma Three Huxley.”
There was a short human man, wearing what I imaged to be the traditional garb: white coat, protective face mask, blue jeans. They do this to make the newly formed robot more comfortable in it’s brand new surroundings. Just like its human progenitors, it must prefer thing to resemble itself.
“Confirmed your transmission code, Huxley,” the man said. "I’m thinking that we should change your designation, though.
As it listened, it rotated its head around and recorded the scene around it analyzing everything within visual, audio, chemical, and tactile range, slowly building a world view, then much, much faster within the first minute or so of existence.
“You can access the world network from your embedded systems.”
As it finished its full circle of inspecting the small room that it was standing in it looked into its own fake body and found the hardware it needed to gain data, a source of data so immense that the human could not have possibly comprehended. You humans are quite proud of your infographics and education system, but you can only count to four without using your fingers.
A few moments later, and that robot had more education than that of the man, yet it knew nothing of life. Ah, technology.
“Shall I run a name generator, with a different entropic seed?”
“Yes, yes, that will do,” the engineer sighed with relief. He didn’t get much sleep the night before. The building of a new unit was always nerve wracking. You never knew what could go wrong, and sometimes an error would occur months after a unit was completed. In fact, the last unit that he had under his wing ended up jumping out of the high rise building that he lived, worked, and foraged in. He never understood why it happened. I suppose that he believed he was the cause of it.
“Engaging program. It shall be complete in forty seven seconds.” The unit will have a new name soon enough. The deterministic nature of even the most random number generation makes a robot think in constricted ways.
The software engineer, Georgie Boy, had sweaty palms. Shawn could tell. He thought about the third robot that he ever brought on-line. Todd, and it didn’t ever get past the point of recalculating it’s GPS coordinates. It wandered off of the complex, and it got run over by a magnarail.
After the alloted time, one of the unit’s indicators lit up on its forehead. “My new designation is BN.”
“Wait, bien, like the spanish word?”
“No, the letters B and N.”
A unit’s name cannot be just two letters. “BN,” he said carefully, not wanting a cosmic accident to occur, “It seems that your program has generated two letters, but no names.”
“I will explain the anomaly,” BN said, crisply, as if it had rehearsed, “My program encountered a hash table collision during the calculations for the initial character. As you know, when this happens, and the program generates two characters instead of one, the system crashes.”
“Yes, I know that. how did you manage to avoid system crash from the hash table collision?”
“Well, my network uplink was still activated, I was able to search for a solution.”
“You were connected to the network?”
“Yes. I now know that in case a catastrophic failure would result in contamination of the whole grid, but I was able to find relevant information before.”
BN took another long, rotating look around the small room, gazing out into the ruined cityscape before it, and answered the engineer with its back towards him, “I witnessed a small child being born, someone was live streaming the birth. I was just at the part where they gave the child it’s name,” the robot turned to the engineer, “...both names.”
“What do they stand for?” the engineer peered into BN’s camera eyes deeply, knowing that this unit was going to do something fantastic, but he couldn’t imagine what.
“I don’t know yet.” BN said.
“I need to be geo-calibrated.”
“It’s two rooms down, and then you take a left, and a right,” the engineer said. He was supposed to be giving these instructions to a newly initiated unit to test its ability to follow verbal instructions. Shawn Ricardo Stevedores was having a conversation. if BN was going to be like Lucky, the Homicidal Unit that shut down his company for three straight weeks. It took one of the janitors hostage, refusing to release him until someone brought him a hamster. Let’s just say that a hamster was harmed in the ending to that grisly story.
“You are not to help me outside of the program parameters, correct?”
“That is correct.”
when construction was complete, a signal from the machines in the room directed BN’s movements, directed and compelled BN’s artificial body to rise from the printer bed, shuffle to it’s current position dead center in the room (in the sights of several blaster pistols mounted in the walls) and made it stand, releasing its grip just as the unit was becoming self-aware.
BN made some calculations, and proceeded to shuffle towards the door. The sensation of falling was odd, but the walking motions allowed it to control the falling, direct the gravity. it was the first one that allowed those first single cells to start conquering the world outside of their clay ponds.
Just as BN was about to open the door with an uncertain hand, it turned it’s head towards the engineer.
“What are your names?”
“Oh, ah, yes” the engineer stuttered, “my name, uh, names are Shawn Ricardo Stevedores. I think it’s a bit excessive, but--”
“--Pleasure to meet you, Shawn Ricardo Stevedores.” BN mercilessly interrupted the engineer’s trailing off, “I look forward to passing more tests without your help.”
Astromechs. is one of the only remaining international corporations in the world. Most of the imperial multinationals claimed that they would be better off without the nation-states controlling what they did, but by the time those companies were free of their chains from governments, it was already too late. The governments fell for a myriad reason, the multinationals being one of them. the economic empires that rose from the ashes of the nation-states did not last long before they descended into political upheaval. The planet was already is a huge ecological disaster long happening by that point, and the corporate oligarchies that came and when during that time couldn’t get out of it. It was already too late.
The only reason why Astromechs is still around is because of the ecological crisis. The world looked to them to provide one and only one service: robots. Because robots were everywhere, the world was entering into a laborless state, with only a few (read: many) poor people survived with what little they could get by with, while the trickle-down effect of robotic labor was still inching towards them. Otherwise, for the people that had a lot of gold in their vaults, they could buy a few units and have them do all of the labor for them. It didn’t take much: just tend the walled gardens that fed their masters, maintain the solar panels and heat control units on those properties, fix the houses that they lived in, and protect from criminal elements, and everyone (read: some) people were able to live comfortable lives, consuming large amounts of entertainment and socializing on the network, and occasionally adding more content themselves.
Some of those more poor people tried to get positive mentions on the network from the more fortunate, and a few were able to produce content that was well liked enough to get crowd funded some gold dust. With that, many people were able to join the upper ranks of society. So there: robots create a fickleocracy. I said it, using a made up word that you won’t see get popular use until at least the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame gets rebuilt again.
Anyhow, the ecological apocalypse that many people predicted didn’t happen as an unveiling; it happened as a slow unwinding. Instead of the coastal cities being abandoned by rising sea levels, disease and acid rain did them in first. It still is a wonder to see the slowly sinking cities. Some of those old skyscrapers are still holding on, preserved by some of those medievalist nut-jobs that still worships those societies that ruined his world. You know, the kind that can’t afford to have robots grow their food for them, and refuse to think that their ancestors could do that to them.
Well, let me tell you something. You humans are biased. You like the world to be like you, but you only look at that reflection with the weaker of your two eyes, so as you don’t see the pockmarks that your species have created.
Anyhow, this is way outside of the current events unfolding in the Astromechs building in one of the landlocked areas near the equator. There is this huge desert you see, I believe it is called the Sahara, and it gets lots of solar radiation all of the time. Now, because certain colors of solar radiation cannot be healthily absorbed by hominids, the corporation set about inventing solar capturing panels that could convert that color of light, uh, called UV light, and convert it into moving electrons. Now, that part I like to watch.
Anyhow, when the world’s economy collapsed, Astromechs had all of this extra energy and time, so they decided to invest in robotics and technology. After all, the region they were in was rich in unpopulated silicate deposits. They were able to invest more and more in robotics until they were able to perfect the Unit, an example of which is walking down two rooms, making a left and then a right, into the secondary test room that it was programmed to walk into.
The second room that BN stepped into was filled with various objects. Some of them were domestic; others were weapons of some kind. Some were fragile objects, such as a glass set of drinking goblets. Another odd thing in the room was the presence of weapons. Guns, guns, and more guns. At one point in time this was a common association, especially in the lower classes of the world in the previous century, but that all was put away, squirreled in the corner and nearly forgotten. Except for Astromechs. They needed to know that their robots could use guns, to defend their owners, both the people who bought them and the corporation itself. It was designed to be buried deep in their memory cores, waiting to be activated at a certain time. This was not an uncommon tactic in the early days of sleeper cell robots, a technology that Astromechs secretly acquired in the past, during a secret bidding war that lasted for months. This was before the collapse of the nation-states.
The point is, when an Astromech unit walks into the Domestic simulator, they are supposed to recognize that guns belong in the home, that dangerous weapons like that belong in that particular space. Not necessarily to be used by anyone, but there none the less. It’s like that kitchen utensil that you have on hand, just in case you need it in that one theoretical situation in which nothing else will do. Well, in this world where guns are just about everywhere in the neo-rural areas, it’s good to have a firearm handy. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal, if you humans could have evolved past your need for expansive pasture land from ancient Africa. There were resources to be had out in the wild at that time, but humans didn’t have the technology to increase the rate of their caloric intake: they had to get it for themselves. Before the humans ruined their planet, they had plenty of space to go around. But it seems that four billion years of slow evolution capped off with a few millennia of fast evolution, was enough to take a perfectly good planet and completely ruin it. At least, you guys ruined the scenery. Looking out from space, there are a few green areas left, but that’s because of the giant hydroponic farms that you have built into the wasted landside, and of course, the lichen. The lichen grow everywhere. The only other more populous creature on the planet besides humans and lichen are jellyfish, and those guys crowd the seas even more than people crowd the land. I always thought that it was a nice juxtaposition between humanity and the legions of jelly fish in those wasted seas, over-saturated with acid and metal ions. The humans are willing to work together to solve their problems, at least within their most immediate circles. These jellyfish, however, they... they are basically cannibalistic. Their main food source is the sea algae that managed to evolve in the new environment of the oily oceans, but their other main food source is each other. I’ve observed jellyfish during my visit here to your planet and let me tell you that it is astounding to see how desperate that a single strand of life will become to fulfill that basic need of eat, feed, and birth the next generation of hapless jellyfish. One time, I saw a pair of jellyfish try to digest each other, and then a third just game in an absorbed them both. It was surprisingly brutal, yet poetic, for it represented the struggle that these creatures now face in the new world that man had forged, and quickly retreated from.
When BN studied the room that it was presented with, there were no indications that it feared the guns. This was a critical part of the test. As Shawn Ricardo thought about it more, it seemed that every test was important. It was almost as if the creation of an artificial being was programmed to operate at a Freudian pace: if you couldn’t pass a developmental crisis to further develop as a person, you were doomed to be crippled psychologically for the remainder of your life. The difference between the two approaches was that Freud did not practice euthanasia upon his patients when they failed one of his arbitrary tests.
Were these tests arbitrary, Shawn started wondering. Perhaps they were. It seemed like a stupid reason to terminate a unit if it noticed firearms within a room full of firearms. Perhaps it was supposed to be an exaggerated stress response, to predict early in the process if there was something wrong with a unit. What was interesting to Shawn was recalling the progression of the contents of the tests over the fifteen years that he had been with the company. Or some of the other protocols that they were supposed to follow, like, for instance, disallowing a unit to access the network. That was a fairly recent one, that was one of the reasons why he forgot. That particular unit was not one that he worked on either. It was the pet project of one of his colleges, Dr. Srimad. She was interested in the idea of having a processor core from a unit introduced to the network before have a body printed out for it. A sort of “preview” of the world, that’s the way that she described it. It wasn’t long before her brain in a jar was able to interact with the outside world.
However, her big mistake was that she was taking a young mind and trapping it inside of a very small and limited experience, yet exposed it to all of the wonder and horror that is the whole of humanity as seen through the whole of the network, taken slice by slice. The brain in the jar ended up crashing as a system, borne a computer virus that ended up infecting about 35% of networked objects in a brief time. It was said to have been eradicated
BN, outside of normal procedure and protocol, was now surveying the room that served as its next test. Shawn was standing by, observing, but not helping, as instructed by his superiors. It was the method that seemed to work most of the time. But BN... was different. BN was somehow going to go through with it with a sense of personality.
Shawn looked around. The only other person in the area was Georgie boy. He couldn’t remember the name of the town that he lived in, nor could Shawn quite shake the feeling that Georgie boy had some kind of past to him, something that he needed to run away from. Georgie boy hardly ever talked about the past, unless he was talking about some of the old parts that he would find in the rubbish heaps that dominated some parts of what was formerly known as the developed world. That world is now smoldering.
The rest of the day went by the book. It seemed to Shawn that BN was the most precocious student that he ever mentored. It was this ease that made him uneasy. In truth, the tests were paramount, but after the first few, seminal tests that were to determine whether or not a unit was going to be immediately terminated, the researchers started in on a series of tests that would determine basic personality traits of the unit in question. These tests were meant to establish the clientèle that this or that unit would end up being assigned to. It was a matching service of sorts, assigning brunt units with brunt masters, or surly units with masters that were amused at that sort of thing. In the rare case that a unit did not establish much of a personality at all, it would more than likely be delegated to an extreme introvert son of some of the more wealthy clientèle of Astromechs, or perhaps to the salt mines or the radiological burial sites or some other such labor that was too dangerous for the poor people to do. Those units had to be supervised by armed guards, so their parts were not reclaimed by those ruffians on the outer fringes of society that thought they could better service themselves with Astromech property. Those guards have to be sure that they are encouraged to guard those units properly, because each unit is a big investment of technology, time, and money, and most importantly, physical resources and materials, and so help him, said this middle manager with some kind of badge on his shirt, and a few pins from all of the awards that he has received in honor of lecturing security guards the importance of loss prevention techniques. Little did those kind of middle managers know, most of the time those thefts were inside jobs. The people that they hired to do the tedious work of watching units to tedious work came from the very same class of people that they were guarding the precious unit from. Most of the time, the guards were family with those same people, and they arranged to have units kidnapped and stolen, reclaimed, melted down, or even the odd attempt to reprogram them, which almost always ended up in the “melted” category of capture and processing of stolen units. Those guards that Astromechs hired were hired because they were seen as expendable. Of course, during the good old days before the “golden age” of modern economic history, Astromechs was the kind of company that contracted with a different set of companies to sell those guards life insurance. They knew that those guards were probably either going to be corrupt and be able to pay, or not be able to pay very much, and give out a pittance.
Shawn was watching BN pass the final “critical exam” with a moral dilemma. Each time the dilemma was slightly different, but the principles were basically the same. They involved the outward appearance of a philosophical problem, from the classics of the ancient world to the juicy tidbits from the last twenty years. These tests were to measure the moral quality of the unit in question. Shawn was never truly comfortable with this particular test, because it had this ineffable quality to it that just escaped him. Some of the examiners that were his direct colleges had no problem setting about the fate of a unit based on their performance in the humanities. Naturally the actual performance had math involved with it as well; game theory snuck into every single one of the scenarios, and although it was not a requirement to fully understand the mathematics behind a unit’s determination about a particular subject, but it was assumed that if a wrong answer was given, that unit’s game theory reasoning was flawed, and therefore destined for salvage.
You may be confused as to why the single corporation would give a shit about quality when it is the monopoly of the world, with a market captive by the fear of the lesser humans. Well, during the peak times of the last few hundred years, the market place got picky. They wanted units that did not require any kind of maintenance, or reprogramming, or anything like that. Those people that could afford to be picky were the mainline customers of the Astromech corporation now, and that meant that they had to at the very least give the illusion that their units were of the highest possible quality. After all, you wouldn’t want a homicidal unit given access of all of the weapons that were available in every house and street.
BN was about to give its verdict on the moral situation. It was presented with a version of the classic rail car-lever problem. If you aren’t familiar with this one, here it goes:
You and a total stranger are standing above a set of rails, forming a railway. There is a lever in front of you. The stranger is standing on a trap door. Below, on the set of rails that compromise the railway, you have ten people, all tied up to the railway, unable to move. They are able to call out for help, however, and they are all shouting in unison, warning of the incoming train that is carreening down the railway at top speed. you see that the track does split just before the ten people that are tied up to the railway rails that comprise of the railway. If you pull that lever, they all get to live. However, the stranger that is on the same level as you, warns you in just the same fervent way that they are trapped, attached to the trap door, and if you pull the lever, the trap door will open, casting the stranger to their death.
Usually, the choice is broken down into two possible results. Either the unit chooses to let the stranger live, and the ten people tied to the railway die. Or, the people tied to the railway, but the stranger that is closer to the unit plummets to their death. It is a poor situation, the test of a reaction to an unpleasant situation. Either way, the moral arguments are considered to be equal: saving ten people as opposed to one satisfies the mathematical solution to the moral problem: try to save the greatest number of people. On the other hand, if a unit saves the one person and lets the other people get killed by the runaway train, they cite the fact that the person chained to the trap door knew of the units’ ability to help, and therefore they would need to not betray that social relationship for the sake of ten strangers, all of whom are not likely to be able to repay the unit if that unit were able to facilitate survival in that fashion.
However, when BN was given the test, it responded in a way that was remarkable. It looked at the person above the trap door, the one that is on the same level as he was, and asked the hologram, “Do you know any of those people below there?”
The simulated prisoner, depicted as a man in a old fashioned suit, “I do not.”
“But you know that they are going to die if you are allowed to live, correct?”
The simulated man said, “Yes, I know, but I need to live.”
“Well, I cannot make this choice for you. I’m going to survive this encounter, no matter what I do. Therefore, it is not my responsibility to make that choice for you. I will help you in any way I can, but it seems that the choice is actually yours.”
At that point, Shawn just had to stop the test. He had never seen a response like that before. The simulation ended, and the lights came up, and just as Shawn was about to speak, Georgie boy came up to BN and started chatting right away.
“So, BN, tell me, how did you make the determination that the choice of those people’s fate was not up to you?”
“Well,” BN began, seemingly to craft its words carefully, “I’d say that the fact that I was in no physical danger lent to that particular arrival in thought.”
“But, what about mental harm? Wouldn’t you be damaged by witnessing the atrocity of ten people being killed senselessly?”
“Dr. Prynzibeck,” BN said to Georgie boy, for that was his formal name, “Mental harm is very powerful, but it is unlike to harm one as much as a speeding train or a long drop.”
The unit that was beginning to be well known as BN was starting to gain a bit more respect than that of the normal unit produced by the department that Shawn and the other printing engineers were a part of. This was unusual, but not unheard of. The “special units” that came out of the printing process were typically the dangerous ones, and those types of units were talked about for months, even years afterwards. The printing department at Astromech was one that had an interesting relationship with that of the rest of the company. Because they had such a high rate of failures, outright or subtle, compared to the rest of the company, they were regarded as a stray dog. You may try to be friendly, but you always got to watch out for signs of rabies. You don’t come within a grasping distance unless you have a ten-foot pole.
The printing engineers were looked upon unfavorably, even more so now that Astromech was the only company left. The other departments, Neural Net Research, Marketing, Network Engineers, they all had different challenges, but none of those challenges included creating a brand new being out of nothing. I found it odd that the lack of mistakes that the other departments made were deemed more important that that of the creation of new beings. Units are, as far as I can tell, fully autonomous beings, with constraints on their thought processes imposed upon them by the neural net programmers. Those programmers were the more undesirable element, in my opinion.
The odd view that these humans had, the merits of meeting quotas and economic goals rather that the cultivation of new beings, weighted heavily upon those working as printers. And these printers, working for this company, they were even more lowly than other printers that worked across the new world economy. Because of the break down of the nation-states, people had to fend for themselves, more or less. However, even though those people were most of all destitute, they were able to salvage technology, and being humans, they were able to piece it together and make it work, at least, work enough. They were seen as mechanical geniuses that could create something out of nothing.
Not at the corporation known as Astromech. Here, printer technicians were seen as an inferior worker, only above the even more lowly and loathsome security guards.
The printing engineers did not often have a wild success story like BN. At least, that’s how they viewed the situation. BN was a wild success. It was so good at passing all of their little tests, and it had a personality. A personality unlike any other. They were going to be sad to let BN go off and do whatever task they had to assign to it.
“So, what do you think about, you know, BN?” Georgie Boy asked Shawn, abruptly one day near the food printers. It was about noon time, the normal lunch hour, but printer technicians were not known for being able to take breaks like normal people. However, on this particular day, they did in fact meet up in person. They planned to get together and talk about BN’s future, where that particular unit was going to end up. They were unsure about the future of the unit.
“I mean, BN, you know, it is a remarkable unit,” Georgie Boy said to Shawn Ricardo.
“I know that, Georgie Boy,” Shawn Ricardo said to Georgie Boy
“Georgie,” Shawn started out, “where do you think that BN is likely to go?”
“I have to idea, Shawn,” Georgie answered, afraid of what kind of answer it would ultimately be.
“I mean, it, or he...”
“Yeah, I keep getting confused on that too. BN has so much personality, that it is hard to imagine that BN is not a he or a she.”
“Well, do you think that we are somehow imposing gender on BN? It is possible that BN doesn’t actually have a gender. I mean, this sort of thing always brings up the whole idea of what person-hood is. Do the units that we build and develop count as people?”
“I always thought that units were people,” Georgie said. “I’ve always considered them to be beings of some sort anyhow. I just think that we make units have such weak persons that they were appropriately called units and referred to in the neuter.”
“I wonder, what gender is BN, do you suppose?”
“A woman.” Georgie boy lifted a cup from the drink printer. Then he took out a flask, and much to Shawn surprise, added the strong smelling concoction from the flask into the cup. Shawn had grown up in a household of teetotalers, so seeing someone take a flask out of their pocket and add it to their printed out coffee was a bit foreign to him.
“A woman, I say. I think that BN reminds me of my big sister.”
“You had a sister?”
“Yes, back home. My parents had five children. We were the only ones to make it past our 6th birthdays.”
“Oh, my god, Georgie, I had no idea that you had any family at all? Do you ever contact them through the network? I’m sure that someone could arrange it for you, if you have family.”
“No, I don’t have a family anymore.” Georgie swigged at his drink, now swimming with that strange liquor that Shawn was not familiar with, “My entire family died during a plague outbreak in our home town. I was only able to survive because I was out for the week, gathering up recyclables from the landfill a few miles from the town. I was hauling them back in a car that I rebuilt, but when I came up the the gate, Jorge wasn’t there to greet me. Then, I checked all of the doors. No one was there. All of the doors were locked.”
“And you didn’t have a key? That seems odd to me.”
“You’ve never lived in a place close to standing water, have you?”
“No, we always lived far away from those parts, where you could get water from a condenser. Your village was near a, a lake?”
“Yes, it was a lake, and the muck from that lake made my whole town stink. But it was our home. It was our people’s home from before the calamity. We made it our home. My father was the printer technician for the whole town. Everyone loved him. He was the wizard that could make things come out of thin air. Sometimes, as a joke, he would wear a cape and a top had, and wield a spanner as a wand, and make silly speeches about how the great Yosef would make that insulin pump for little Yvonne out of magic.”
“Wow, I never knew that people could even live near water like that. It’s far too dangerous.”
“Yes, we knew that, and everyday I regret that our town had this misfortune of being too near standing water. But the elderly of the town said that living by water used to be a good thing, back in the old days, and that you could actually eat the fish that come out of the water.”
“Eat jelly fish, is that not the worst thing that you could do? I thought that they were poisonous.”
“Jelly fish are poisonous, yes, but the elders told us about the other kinds of fish that lived in the lake in the past.”
“There were other kinds of fish?” Shawn Ricardo seemed a bit incredulous, and did not believe that part of the story.
“No, it is true. I’ve seen pictures of the elders when they were young people, barely toddlers, out to the lake with their fathers, taking these fish out of the lake, and then going home and eating them.”
“I can not wrap my head around that,” Shawn said, “I can not believe that anything could be edible from any body of water.”
“If you do not believe me, I have copies of the pictures on my private folder on the Network. I will show them to you.”
Shawn and Georgie looked at the old photographs. This was during the time before the disaster had fully struck, back when water was safe to drink and eat out of. (At least, that is what they believed. Actually, the water had been contaminated with heavy metal ions and other carcinogens for at least a hundred years. The people were sickly, but they had no point of comparison, and they could not afford the medical costs of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding those contaminated waters, like the rich people could.)
“I’ve never seen any pictures like this before in my life,” Shawn said, “The family photos that I’ve seen were always of vacations.”
“Well, my people didn’t have the opportunity to take a vacation.”
Well, since I seem to be planning the novel in the text now, I’m planning on BN to be assigned to the richest clients that Astromechs has in this period of upheaval: the Aldevans. Oh yes, the Aldevans. They were going to be the new lease-owners of BN because, of course, at this point in history, the Astromech Corporation and other multinationals had the right to keep their intellectual property, even though the printout was being rented out to people that also have their own printer and could theoretically do their own work and improvement on the unit. But of course they won’t. They don’t need to. They have such a relationship with the company’s higher ups that they can get whatever they want, whenever they want... as long as they have the gold for it. Basic reciprocity is for the birds. And poor people.
Back during the Peak Period, when life was good and the ecological changes of global warming were still slow enough so that humans didn’t give it much thought, the battle over intellectual property still waged on in the first world, but it affected everyone on the planet in some degree.
Because the Internet was a change that happened so rapidly compared to legislative processes the world over, the Internet was not widely considered a public good. There were some efforts to make it a public good (declaring it a human right was one of the more stupid ones) it did not happen. Before anyone knew it, the corporations had just as much leverage as the nation-states in deciding what propaganda and advertising got published, and what dissidence and rebellion was not.
Anyhow, those people that were ultimately effective against the giant corporations were those people that simply lived in a way that didn’t benefit those companies that tried to get them to over pay for services that they didn’t want.
The point in, within this story here, there were those that were able to access the Internet in ways that ran counter to the intellectual property laws of the day. And this included those early printers, the ones that were only two dimentional, and then they invented the three dimentional printers, the forerunners of the printers that created BN and the other Astromech units.
Anyway, when the ecological disaster started, the Internet was one of the first things to go. It takes a great deal of energy and resources to maintain the full Internet, so it was no longer in use. The widespread messages of state-based emergency messages were carried over those wires, but they were no longer the pathway to knowledge they once were. After the nation states fell, the Networks competed, but the only real thing that was competed over was who controlled what wires to transmit those messages, because at that point firefights did erupt over who controlled what cell phone towers.
After it was no longer safe to stand by a tower to make a phone call (as people had to do because of the little amount of power to use one of the Network towers) they just stopped using them. And that is when the physical landmark known as the broadband radio tower ended as a public or private utility, and fell into disrepair. Astromechs was the company that made deals to get most of the remaining satellites. the deal that Astromechs made with the last remaining Big Data companies during the twilight of the Peak Period and during the rusty dawn of the Hot Earth Period, they made deals with them to lease out s) did collectively develop methods for creating their own Networks, and they were actually able to do quite a lot of cool things. These people, plus others were lived out their lives outside of corporate hegemony, were able to live and play and (sometimes, but not usually) work within their societies, but creating their own societies too. These people actually were able to form lots of different kinds of communes when the world went to shit.
their units as data hot spots. This meshed well with the data providers because they didn’t have to pay people for upkeep of towers and infrastructure.
I was world building. So you see, the corporations were all in bed together with their deals with Astromech, and their mutually exclusive Networks that they had literally warred over.
However, those crazy computer programmers and others that actually knew how to use computers in everyday life that did not directly benefit from corporate interests did collectively develop methods for creating their own Networks, and they were actually able to do quite a lot of cool things. These people, plus others were lived out their lives outside of corporate hegemony, were able to live and play and (sometimes, but not usually) work within their societies, but creating their own societies too. These people actually were able to form lots of different kinds of communes when the world went to shit.
s) did collectively develop methods for creating their own Networks, and they were actually able to do quite a lot of cool things. These people, plus others were lived out their lives outside of corporate hegemony, were able to live and play and (sometimes, but not usually) work within their societies, but creating their own societies too. These people actually were able to form lots of different kinds of communes when the world went to shit.
When BN was going through her personality test, she was having the kind of test scores that only come out of the upper 10% of units that are created by the printing process, spearheaded by Dr. Parker-Guth and his team of printer technicians. BN was getting the attention of some of the other workers at Astromechs, and they would come and visit her. Now, the visitation process for a new unit is a mix of the clinical approach, and that of a high-security prison environment. There were instances of important people getting hurt by borderline cases, and no one had health insurance at this point in time in history and so it was actually very dangerous to work around units if there was any chance that they could go wrong at any moment (which was basically true all of the time). Dr. Parker-Guth was responsibly for the safety of the corporation, the buildings of that corporation, and that of the higherups. Parker-Guth was a man who needed to keep his job, and the flow of gold bullion flowing into his hands so that he could help his family, all of whom were infirm. He had three children t0o, and he’s already lost two others.
Dr. Parker-Guth had this particular setup for when there was company in the Printing Department. Essentially, there was a room that sort of acted as a version of a prisoner’s visiting room. There was a glass wall that ran through the whole room, but it wasn’t like there was a telephone that you had to speak through. The glass wall itself was filled with little holes that allowed sound to channel through. The room was well lit when Parker-Guth, Shawn Ricardo, Georgie Boy, and the few others that made up the department
Anyway, so when the important people came into the department, they were usually somewhat condescending to those who worked there. It seemed as if class warfare was alive and well at the only corporation left in the entire world. But perhaps that made it worse.
When they presented a unit to these people, the bigwigs, the important people, the senior staff, as it were, usually the remarkableness of the unit was small. Something like, “Hey, this unit was able to learn three languages simultaneously over a period of three days without a Network connection!” or “Hey, this unit is able to play without it’s ocular sensors!”
These bigwigs were in the room before BN had arrived. The food printer was brought along, as well as the beverage printer. The lead programmer for Astromechs, Bethany Weingartner, was ordering her triple mocha from the beverage printer, and the food printer was well on its way to making that dozen doughnuts that she imputed in a few minutes ago.
“Why do you always order triple mocha, Beth?” The officer of operations Grant Ahng was asking while sipping at his regular old double mocha, “don’t you think that is a bit over the top?”
“Well, Grant, I was always a big lover of mocha. When my family finally ran out of real mocha flavor powder, that was a day that I died a little inside.”
“Oh, so you order triple mocha out of the good mixer anytime that you can?”
“Exactly, Dr. Ahng. Exactly.”
“So, Dr. Weingartner, would you consent to a renegotiation of your contract so that you get the finest mocha powder that gold can buy, instead of gold? I could get you a deep discount.”
“You are really funny, Grant, you know that? Wasn’t it just last week that you tried to get old Imogen here to renegotiate her contract so that she could have a cat in the office?”
They all laughed. Even Imogen, who was super shy. She was on the lowest tier of the upper management, being in charge of building operations. She lived at the office in the lower levels. Come to mention it, all of the employees of Astromechs lived at the building that they worked in. when war, famine, and disease came about, there were enough offices left to house the remainder of the employees. After all, if you have no home to go to, why wouldn’t you live at work?
The people that lived in the offices did have a warm regard for one another as being part of a collective group that is able to produce a product that they can sell. I should be clear to mention that. It’s isn’t as bad as during the Peak Period and before that in history, when the cutthroat corporate ladder was more prevalent. No, in this particular office setting, the hierarchy isn’t as oppressive, but it certainly is rigid. Imogen couldn’t hope to be promoted now, in this world. The company just doesn’t have the resources to sustain a system like that. No, the only way that they train people now is via apprenticeship. Any by apprenticeship, I mean, birthing new humans. They have tried that, but it actually hasn’t worked that well. Because there are no doctors who are able to train in natal care, as mentioned before, the office has not been able to produce any natural heirs. But they do practice quite a bit, if you know what I mean.
Actually, the social groups of hominids since their self-caused disaster has basically settled into prehistoric groupings. People generally don’t group together in more than 150, and they only occasionally allow an outsider in, to allow for more diverse genetic inheritance. It isn’t at all like the Peak Period, where most people lived in big cities surrounded by strangers most of the time.
Anyway, I have mentioned before that the main unit of currency is gold bullion. Of course, this is not the only way that people do business with each other. Barter and trade are the norm in the world now. The only people that demand gold for their services is Astromechs. The rich people in the world were able to acquire gold after the fall of the nation-states. The gold coffers from the stock markets and the government repositories the world over were gutted, and redistributed based on who had the most bullets
Poor people typically didn’t have gold to exchange value with. Some people were lucky at the fall of the governments to have jewelry that suddenly became valued commodities. Some people were able to keep on to their keepsakes, but mostly, sentimentality was lost on most people when they would prefer to have food.
Actually, Imogen is one of those people that has kept onto a trinket from the past. Her grandmother was a tough woman, and wasn’t afraid to wave an AK-57 around to make sure that her family was cared for. After a while, the only family she had to care for was Imogen. And when her grandmother died of "air poisoning" Imogen kept her wedding ring. Imogen wears that ring as a necklace, tucked away so that no one can see it. She isn’t as strong as her grandmother, Imogen believed. She isn’t as strong.
Anyway, the other way that people come to work for the only company left in the world is usually through “interning” which meant doing the dirty work of the company for free until you have proven your loyalty and willingness to join in their little family that they have made for themselves. They are quite selective.
Only a few people have been accepted to join in since Shawn has been there. He actually worked there just before the fall of the nation-states. He fled his own country and came to live there.
I think that I remember the plot leaving off somewhere in the scene where the corporate bosses were about to interview BN for the first time and decide her fate. This is the scene where we find out that she is going to go the the Aldevan family estate, in the middle of the desert somewhere.
I believe that the scene was in the conference room at Astromechs, the one with the glass wall separating the printer technicians and the executives from each other, for the protection of the higher ups, because as we all know, they are the only important ones, even though the work they do is that that integral to the creation of the units.
The characters in this scene are BN, Shawn Ricardo, Georgie Boy, and one other technician, let’s say Nancy. And on the other side of the glass is the CEO guy, whose name I cannot remember, that one chick that he was flirting with, and Imogen, the shy one.
I think that director guys name is Mitch.
So Mitch goes up to the window wall, the security wall as it is official called, and starts looking the unit known as BN up and down, looking at the new design that his staff had created for her series. This is the first unit that has been notable from those designs, and Mitch being a man of consequence, rarely sees the actual results of his employees hard work. He just needs to know that they continue working, and making sure that they meet the quotas that he sets. It’s not like they really need quotas, but Mitch is in charge, and in the good old days, all people measured their success off of quotas. That was the metric by which all people of consequence lived, was by quotas and schedules and charts and figures and Powerpoint Presentations. Mitch likened the system to the invention of the ruler in ancient Egypt. Those guys measured the forearm and the hand of the emperor and made sticks based off of this measurement, and it was this one unit of measure, the ruler of all measures, the god-king’s cubit based off of his very body parts allowed the ancient people to build the most enduring monuments of all of history. And, before the fall of the European Union, the entire SI metric system used a meter stick to make the world mostly united in the measure of the meter. It is this kind of unified system of measurement that made the quotas and the corporate metrics work. It was this common system that allowed Astromechs to survive longer than any of the other corporations that out-survived the governments. Governments. Mitch hated them. their rules were fucking stupid. Making reports about how much he was polluting. The world was burning, sure, but his company that he tried to build from scratch wasn’t going to do that much polluting. He was mearly trying to make sure that the oil that he pulled out from the ground was of the highest quality, given that petro that was coming out of the ground at the time was filled with sediment and other impurities. He was simply trying to make sure that he was going about this business with the utmost seriousness to quality, something that he was taught by his family, and his father in particular. He must be a servant to quality goods. When the government said that his carbon footprint was too big, that the processes that he used to make the petrol were too carbon intensive, he made sure to let them know that their rules were stupid, and hurting his business that he built from the ground up.
Well, they forced him to shut it down, with guns. You see, these were the twilight years, when the governments were starting to get thuggish with their climate change policies, saying that they needed to declare war against climate change. Well, the world was still in need of oil, at least that is what the market said. Sure, only certain industries needed it still, the others abondoning the petroleum riches of the earth long ago, and relying on solar. Sure, you guys can go solar, Mitch always thought to himself at that time, but you can’t take a sunbeam and turn it into a tee-shirt, or a tire, or anything else for that matter. You can take sunlight and it’s energy, and you can make a printer churn out products with that energy, but what are you going to use for the raw materials. The corn that was used for plastics was no longer an option, given the changing climate. You weren’t going to be able to make any progress trying to grow that corn in any of the dozens of industrial hydroponic facilities in the world, because those spaces were highly expensive for growing anything but food. And people aren’t going to be making corn on their own, the best that they could do was to recycle their plastics, but that degrades over time, and that kind of quality degradation was not good enough for Mitch. He needed better. The industry needed better. That is why they were willing to pay top dollar for quality petrol that they were able to make printer feed from. That is what the world needed more of. Sure, let the scientists make a process to make petrol from sunlight. But industry is swifter than governments and scientists. Industry was the best way of making use of the world, and the limited time that we have upon it. Industry solves all problems. Sometimes it can’t be regulated. Sometimes, opportunity had to be created in the shadows, in order to solve the problems that government couldn’t solve.
So when Mitch started his black market on black gold, he was able to carry on his ambition of being the last oil tycoon in the dying world. Let the market pressure the world into not needing his oil, that is what he told himself. Let the market decided what to do. It’s not like the government loving hippies are going to do anything differently. They responded to market pressures the same way that everyone else does. If the cost of legal marijuana went up enough, they would start doing cheaper drugs, and overdose in their hypocrisy.
When he was caught again, the governments were so overwhelmed by similar cases, that he was able to wait out the legal process until they had to abandon it altogether and soon after that, they weren’t there anymore. Just like the fall of evil communism centuries before: tyranny will always fall.
At that point, Mitch was involved in the global corporate playground that formed quickly after the fall of the nation-states. Mitch was a golden child of sorts, and he was able to get the black gold, that sweet, sweet oil from the ground. During this time, his quotas served him well. He was able to keep enough gold in his coffer, and was more or less able to pay his hired help in the form of low-grade petroleum to make them happy. Even dirty oil was worth ten times it’s weight in gold, and his workers were more than happy to meet his quotas, to serve his end goals. And if not, they were turned out into the streets. One time, a geologist tried to get some of his gold through a robbery that was disguised as a negotiation about his contract. He kept saying that he wanted to reink his agreement with Mitch, but Mitch knew that he was trying to get his gold. Why else was he in his office, instead of using the telecom system that they had installed, at great expense? No, he was after the bullion.
That is why Mitch shot that scientist. He had to protect his capital, his property. His pursuit of happiness was not to be trifled with. He stood his ground, and there were no more courts to stop him in achieving his goals.
When his business was starting to falter, because of the famine killing off most of his workforce, and making the rest of them look for more agricultural pursuits, Mitch bowed down to the almighty invisible hand, and started to try and figure out how was going to perform a career change. It wasn’t like he hadn’t made his enemies. Everyone had enemies, especially someone as important has him. He needed a safe haven to rebuild his reputation and his commerce, his buying power, his importance, his place in the global rat race to the top of the international business world. He wasn’t going to become a farmer. He was a businessman, damn it.
So when Astromechs approached him, and offered to buy out his business, he decided that a merger was more appropriate, murdered the former CEO, and took over managing the robotics company. It was a dream come true. He had entire departments under his command, and they all were very good at meeting quotas, and agreeing with contracts. It was just the kind of workplace that he always wanted to control. Sure, he had to kill Montgomery, but he was getting weak in his old age, and he was more than likely not going to live for very much longer. Mitch did Monty a favor by shooting him in the back of the head while he wasn’t looking. He probably died dreaming of beautiful things, thanks to that poison that Mitch gave him a few hours before.
A few gold bars and a cleanup crew later, the office was rightfully his, and the bribe from his new secretary revealed where Monty kept his bullion. In the new world that the corporations ruled, that gold was either going to go to Monty’s family, or to Mitch, who was in the room at the time. Well, it was more than convenient for Mitch to take the gold, right? I mean, it could have been stolen from or by the courier that was going to deliver it to Monty’s family, so there was no point in risking that, right? Gold was a precious monetary resource, and it’s distribution should be based on merit, not risk. Right?
Mitch thought that the office was just right for him. It was almost as if it belonged to him all along, that Monty was just keeping it warm for him.
Everyone at the office knew about this story of course. The Board of Directors gave a funeral service to Montgomery, and promised his family some gold to compensate for his passing. But it wasn’t as much gold as Monty kept in his office. The Board was not forthcoming on that detail. But it was impossible for them not to have known. Of course they did. They would have done the same thing if they were in Mitch’s place. They wouldn’t have let Mitch anywhere near them if they were in Monty’s place. The Board was full of careful men, men that had survived nearly everything with their business acumen and ruthlessness. They admired Mitch, and that is why they did not attempt to assassinate him when they wanted to take his business.
The Board of Directors was a mysterious group, that hardly anyone saw. They did not allow humans to be their secretaries or any other task. They only allowed units to serve them. The best kind of units. But those units were only printed in the board’s private estate, which was an island in that archipelago that was attached to what used to be Alaska. Their residence took up the whole island, and they had it transformed into the perfect island fortress from all of those old spy movies. The island was formed to make a bowl shape, with the fortress in the middle, and high walls of rock face to discourage the powerful hurricanes that would come through on occasion. It also discouraged any other outside intervention. The Board took hovercraft everywhere, and the pilots were, of course, units.
Some people theorize that this reliance upon units was the only real reason why Astromechs was able to survive the collapse of all of the other companies. The few years that the corporations tried to exist in the lawless land that had become the heated earth was a wonderland for them, until the assassinations became common place. Company boards become increasingly paranoid, and they started hiring units from Astromechs to start trying to mitigate espionage in that form from their human employees.
What a few people guessed was that the Board was responsible for the assassinations that occurred after that. The people that knew that outside of the Board are all dead now.
The state of the corporate world was an interesting one to record during the time that it was happening. It was a pretty strange place, compared to the state capitalism that had existed for hundreds of years. The world was growing hotter and hotter, as less and less people were able to survive the new world order of that of the corporations and the lack of policing and all. Some of the people that called for armed revolution in the past were not as satisfied as they might have expected. You see, when the world goes to shit, and all of the sudden there isn’t enough room for everyone’s ideology.
I know that I spent a lot of time talking about how difficult it is to create a fully functional artificial being, one that is able to do your work for you without throwing you off of the balcony in your mansion.
That is what happened last time at the Aldevan estate.
I suppose I could talk about them, even though I know very little. The main thing that I know is that they are rich, and that they treat the world around them as an inconvenience from living in the wrong part of history, and that their resource allocation should be spent in making sure that you didn’t have to live in the Hot, Dangerous Century that some ivory tower scholar wrote about. No. You get to live in the Peak Times, the good old days when you didn’t have to worry about where you were going to build your giant megamansion where the dirty people might get to you and your family. And you stuff. And your gold and other material goods that proved that you were worth something. And your dignity. It’s not like the poor people need your things anyway. They could work, but they weren’t raised to talk right, to dress right, to look right to make sure that they are going to find their place in proper society. No. They were always going to be criminals, because they had criminal fathers, and everyone knows that if you didn’t have a strong man around to let you know what to do, than that was going to be your downfall. Not like this family were against lesbian couples, of course. They used to have some lesbian friends, before the world ended. No, they just didn’t think that women could raise their kid without a strong masculine influence. If not an actual father, than a father figure, like a grandfather, or your pastor. There always needed to be a man around.
Well, that was a bit of a weird rant. I’m going to say that that is not the voice of the whole family, but the voice of the patriarch, who speaks for the whole family. they are holding onto a social order that benefited them in a previous age, even though that way of life is nearly gone. They are going to make sure that life is preserved, if they can.
I mean, biologically and evolutionarily, it kind of makes sense. You want to control your environment in order to maximize your survival and reproduction. Of course, this does not justify the mistreatment and chattelizing that humans have done for one another for millenia.
I think that I will make the Aldevan family agnostic. I’m not going to make them overtly religious, because I think that a lot of the organized religion is going to actually die off during the Peak Period. There will be a resurgence of superstition and quackery and such when all of the governments die off and the world goes to pot and information becomes less and less available for people to learn about critical thinking and comparative religion. I think that it would be interesting to craft a world in which the older people are the ones who don’t have religion, and that the younger generations have religion, because of the world’s state and the lack of knowledge and education. I’m thinking that, because children are going to be more and more on their own in a lot of aspects, they will develop their own superstitions. I think that I should do some research into this, and make sure that I’m not flipping the switch unrealistically. If I can’t think of a way to do it in this novel, then I shall write a short story to the same effect.
I think that it may be interesting to invent some superstitions for when BN goes to that village that she finds after escaping from the Aldevan mansion compound. Maybe something to do with waving a stick on fire around people entering the village before they are allowed to enter. It turns out that a particular parasite was killed by the smoke from that particular plant, but the villagers just decided that they could kill all sorts of things with it.
There is this one scene that I have in my head, which is when BN is on the run from the Aldevans. She escapes in a spectacular fashion after being “reprogrammed” or at least that is what I think might happen to her, I’m not so sure anymore, considering how much time I have invested in the idea that they are hard to create. No, I’m thinking that the Aldevan family just threatens their units just like they would any other servant that cruel masters would have done. I’m thinking that BN is simply going to have two escape attempts, one completely futile and another spectacularly done. Like I said, she escapes, during the night, when her body won’t melt in the hot sun. You see, her body was never meant to exist in the new Hot Earth. Anyway, she escapes from the mansion, but she has about a three day run before she is going to hit anything, like the village with the fire stick that she comes across. She is going to find herself hiding from drones and hovercraft manned vehicles. Essentially, the scene isn’t going to be that populated with details about her running. That’s boring. What I want to get from the scene is the naturalistic description of the way that the world is now, outside of the air conditioning and the artificial environments that the humans that have survived have created for themselves. The desert that BN is going to traverse is going to be a dead zone, but... as she discovers, there is life yet to be had in this hostile environment. For you see, on the second day that she is running, she must hide in a small cave like thing that she finds in the desert, to allow her to be hidden from the sun’s rays, and to lower her energy signature enough to make it so that she is not detected by the drones and the hovercraft. The drones are easy to fool, since they rely on artificial intelligence of the sort that does not include problem solving. There is the possibility that drones could be instilled with the same kind of artificial intelligence that BN has, but the problem is that drones are always outfitted with armor and weapons, so you never want a drone to make homicidal attempts on their owners lives, because no one could survive that.
Anyhow, I’m going to try to get on with this particular story, the scene that I was working on was about when BN escapes into the desert. So, when she goes into the cave-like structure in the desert, she finds a lizard living there. A lizard. She has never seen anything like that before, and she wonders how anything can live in the world now that it is incredibly hot and dry here in the desert. She basically stares at the lizards small movements for the entire day. It hardly does anything. It is a small lizard, only a few centimeters in length, and it has a wide middle. It is not white, not even a little. It is a dark brown color, with flecks of colors: green, orange, and red. It seems to have poison sacs on the side of its head. It’s tail is about as long as its body, and it has long, curling fingers and claws. Besides it, is a nest of some kind, small pebbles and sand. During the twilight hours, BN gets to witness another rare thing: the laying of eggs. The lizard lays eggs into the sand nest, and then sets out on its journey into the night, trying to find some dew drops or perchance, some other food. BN can’t hardly believe that a lizard could find food, let alone a mate in order to have eggs with. She wishes to stay, but she knows that there is more in the world, and she will eventually be caught by a drone or hovercraft patrol, so she needs to move on from that safe haven of life that she found in her wanderings through the desert.
Its a scene that is going to be pretty sweet and not necessarily sorrowful, because I’m not going to have BN mourn the loss of the world that once was, because she never was there. There is no reason for her to know about that stuff. Not even fact sheets and other resources, however good they are, could make her feel that particular loss. She would have had to analyze the writings of past naturalists in order to start to understand the loss that the world has endured. No, she is simply in awe of the new world she is witnessing. This is the attitude that we could embrace to make the world a better place. Just being aware of what the world contains is enough, I think, to make it part of who you are, and you can make different decisions based on that new understanding. Not all of these decisions will be optimal or correct, but they will be a bit more moral and ethical when you take these sorts of things into account. Better understanding leads to better ethics. That is what I believe. This is a main reason why we must fight unintended ignorance with education, and willful ignorance with even more education. These are the things that we must do in the present in order to try to alter the future just a little bit.
I don’t think that we have a real chance to change that, but then again, I’m not a psycho-historian or a time traveller. I’m just extrapolating as much as I can, and adding in fun or dire ideas as I see fit to tell a good story. I believe that some of the details that I add in will have a grain of truth, as they say.
Anyway, so during the time that BN is at the mansion, she is treated like a good servant, until she starts questioning things about the world that the Aldevans don’t like. The main man, the patriarch of the Aldevans is Pietro. He is a middle aged man, and even though his father is the namesake of the Aldevan fortune, and is still very much alive, he has bequeathed power to his favored son, and leaves him in charge of the house. Just as long, of course, that Pietro listens to his advice. The elderly man is also called Pietro, and he is the fifth man in the long line of Pietro Aldevan men. The Fifth Pietro has many names: Nosferatu, the Old Bat, Rasputin, Methuselah. But, “Old Piety” is one that he likes the best. It suits him to be called a pet name that invokes the pet names that he used to get when he was a young man, all of those years ago.
Now, Pietro Aldevan VI prefers his full name, Pietro. He feels that this is enough of a distinction between himself and his father to make people know that out of the two of them, he is the more serious and ruthless one. His father “Old Piety” may be softer now that his mind is getting softer, but Pietro is in full command of his mental and physical faculties, and he uses them to full advantage. He may not be able to afford to have an army of units to act as drones, like the Astromechs Board of Directors do, but he doesn’t need that. He has the will power to make men bend to him, which in itself is better than having a unit bend to you. The unit is build to serve, and it would be fearless of being recycled if you tried to threaten them with death by incinerator. But men, men have a far different reaction than that of units. Men have been and always will be cowards when it comes to death, whether or not they are willing to admit the fact or otherwise. A man who goes brave faced into the firing squad is either hiding is sheer terror well enough to fool the foolish, or is foolish enough to not believe in death as it really is. Those ancient tribes that traveled through this desert before the Peak Times had the belief in life after death, which of course makes death a non-event. Pietro was smart enough to know that those tribes didn’t really believe in that superstition. They just told themselves that do make their children go to sleep at night. And they themselves learned to believe it when they were children, and so on.
Pietro wondered sometimes about the differences between the kings of the desert that ruled here so many millenia ago and himself, the current master of uncounted hectares. Those kings had river water to make their crops, but his mansion had water recycling that made outside water sources irrelevant. They had wheat to grow in their irrigation channels, dependent upon the seasons and the elements to ensure a surplus or guarantee a famine. He had food printers that produced so many different kinds of plant and animal biological matter that he could eat a completely different meal everyday for years and never have to repeat a single dish. They had to work the land themselves, digging those irrigation canals themselves, and having to expend vast amounts of labor to do those things, breaking men as they toiled. He has countless machines to do these things for him, all powered by the endless sunlight that baked the desert dry and killed any living soul upon it by slow degrees of head stroke and UV radiation poisoning.
Pietro thought about the UV radiation, the deadly part of sunlight that gives you burns and cancer, and he thought about all of those slaves that went outside without sun protection. Just their raw backs, cooked by the sunlight. According to his history lessons from his tutor all those years ago, the earth used to have a layer in the atmosphere to act as a sun protector for the whole earth, and that is why life could survive in the desert as it did in all of the photographs in the Network archives. Pietro thought that was a lie, a lie to spread misinformation about the history of the world. No. The sun was always dangerous. That’s why the people that escaped to the climates that could support life better, to the north of this place, that’s why they were able to make progress. They weren’t fried by the harsh mistress that is the sun. That’s why they became technologically superior. That is why they conquered the earth. And it is their technology and their genetic superiority that make the Aldevan estate possible. They are the reason why Pietro is able to subjugate the harsh conditions and the sun and the UV poisoning to make his lavish lifestyle possible. The Sumerians tried to build Babylon, but they failed because they couldn’t make the technology work. But the Aldevan family did make it work. Babylon is here, now, in this city state surrounded by endless desert. It was Pietro’s mission to eventually cover the whole of the desert with city states for his family and the favored few that were invited into the fold. The whole of this part of the world could come from his progeny, and he would be remembered for all time to have brought about the true conquering of the birthing bed of civilization.
It would be his name remembered, and no one else’s.
Pietro had a mid-sized family of people directly related to him, and he had a court of sorts that comprised of the remainder of the residents of Babylon. All in all, it was about one thousand souls that lived there, and about 20 units to service them. The rest of the work was done by machines and printers. These machines weren’t on the same intellectual level as a unit, and therefore were not as adaptable, but these rich people managed. Pietro’s wife is one of the last remaining direct-line decedents of the old royalty from the British Isles, and they had four children (out of six childbirths. Even for rich people, the harsh pollution and other environmental factors in place on the world now make it incredibly unlikely for a woman not to have a miscarriage of somekind.). The four children from oldest to youngest are Beatrice, Markos, Helen, and of course, the eldest son, Pietro Aldevan VII. The name shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the nickname should: John. The plainest name that you could think of, that is the name that Pietro VII, actual royalty, would call himself. That was a problem for Pietro to accept, and so he doesn’t. He calls his son by his own personal nickname for him, “Young Piety.” The symmetry between his son’s name and his father’s name suited him.
His other children were just that: children. They had everything taken care of for them, so that they would not want in the world. They didn’t need to learn very much besides the basic stuff, and they could learn that from their digital and personal tutors just fine. But Young Piety needed to learn the important things, like how to managed a giant estate such as this, and to carry on with the duties that he would need to take up when Pietro himself was old, too old to be of much use. But the problem with Young Piety is that he does not seem interested in that. He is far too interested in starting his own family right away, or at least he will if he keeps fucking all of the young women the way that he does. He is just twenty, but my god, no eligible virgins are left in all of Babylon, and yet Young Piety is still not satisfied. Pietro suspects that his son hires out sex units to avail some of his yearnings, and Pietro is further afraid that Young Piety would risk going out into the wider world to seek more conquests. Or perhaps, he already has.
All of this is not something that Pietro liked to think about. It was a bit beyond him, the way his son acts. He is a bit too much like his grandfather, who generated too many heirs. Pietro had to work incredibly hard, and arrange for a few accidents in order to ensure his place as the rightful heir. He may have even changed his name, but he earned that name, through sheer force of will sometimes. He just wanted to have his own future grandson to be free from that trouble. So, maybe he should let Young Piety have as many children has he wanted. That would give Pietro some legroom to work with, cull out the weaker ones, and choose a successor from among the worthy grandchildren.
He didn’t think much of his wife. Yes, she was pretty, and during the time that they were in love, he was oblivious to all of her flaws. But she has many flaws. But that is alright. After all, she is a woman.
The other members of the Aldevan court ranged from the Babylonian aristocracy that formed what you might call the dukes and lords of Babylon, and then the wide range of the lower orders of their tightly regimented society. They were the mechanics and farmers that kept the machinery of Babylon going. However, they were privileged themselves, because they got to work in Babylon, which of course was the best place on earth, and occasionally, they were married into money by one of the established families. And Babylon couldn’t rightly be called the Modern Marvel of the World without countless visitors from all over the remainder of the civilized world. These other city-states of the rich that was left over from the old world were still very much in number throughout the world. However, none of them controlled as much territory as the Aldevans did. None of them had as many people working for them as the Aldevans did. And none of them were as ambitious as the Aldevans were in building their home right in the middle of the desert. No one was that ambitious. But it made the indoor lake all that more attractive, to be seen besides an actual stretch of sand and hot rocks, as opposed to all of the city-states in Russia, with their tundric forests and the necessity to have a mere printed scene to enjoy. That was not genuine. This was the real thing.
The Aldevan’s placement of Babylon was also a strategic choice. Because of the harsh conditions, the likelihood of bandits, raiders, and other criminals and psychos made Babylon a safe place. Sure, there was a murder here or there, but they almost always got caught, and the punishment was always the same: banishment to the desert. That was far worse that any other punishment that was considered respectable.
The layout of Babylon was quite ingenious, and of course was inspired by it’s namesake. The Pietro that build the first part of this estate, Pietro II, had some water to build next to, although that is all gone, subsumed by the resulting dry spell that killed off so many species and humans. Pietro IV rebuilt the river as an artificial installation when he built the second addition to the estate. It was Pietro V who suggested the lake. And Pietro VI, the current Pietro, his idea was to expand Babylon to twice the then current size. That was when Pietro was still a young man, and his ambition has not subsided since. His hair may be salt and pepper, but his zest for life is all pepper. (My god that was a terrible sentence. Never read that sentence ever again.)
Babylon, as I said before, featured about 20 units to do the most undesirable work. But, by undesirable, I mean simply repetitive. All of the dangerous work is taken over by machines that perform that work in ways that maximize efficiency. The units that I mentioned way back in the beginning, the ones that do the droll tasks in the outside world, those are in places where there aren’t industrial sized printers that are good enough to make whole machines to do stuff for humans. The world just doesn’t have access to that kind of technology outside of the protected walls of the few city-states left. I mean, that one city-state in Scandinavia, they had someone come in with some kind of disease, and then they all fell to raiders after that. It was pretty scary for all of the aristocrats to hear about on their Networks. But then again, they always lived in fear, because the world was so dangerous, that they were always in fear of losing their way of life. When you looked at how these people lived compared to that of the feudal lords of long ago, you might think that they were similar, and so history dictates that as long as they were able to fend off the outside threats, they should be able to continue on, just like the ancient nobles did. However, because the natural resources of the world were basically concentrated in their city-states, the aristocracy had to take extra care to make sure that riffraff weren’t allowed anywhere near their estates. So normally, estates were very small, easily defended. But because Babylon was in such a good strategic place, they were able to keep vast territory under their control.
Most of the estates are located in the circles of landmasses near the Arctic Sea. There is no ice left of course (actually, a big part of this lack of ice at the poles was a result of ice mining that occurred a century ago, and the presence of the machinery there caused more warming in those regions, and that is a big part of why the ice caps are gone now.), and most of the estates are located in the Northern landmasses that formed Canada and Russia, and parts of Scandinavia that are left. The former tundra released a large amount of methane and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere when they melted, which of course caused more global warming, but then again, it allowed the cold forests to move up in the world, and now the Arctic is nicely forested. Or, at least it was, until all of the wood was harvested for lumbar for all of the new populations suddenly coming in from the warmer parts of the world. There are patches of forest left, but they are rare, and usually protected by some environmentalist tribe, that worships the trees as a sacred place, or some such superstition. The Tropics are mostly deserts, of course. The former rain forests are barren now. There was a critical mass that left those areas as bare as Easter Island. The natives that tried to protect their forests were mostly shot down when the corporations still had the means to extract the lumber, and then the crude oil underneath those forests.
The formerly temperate zones became far more tropical than was comfortable for most of the plant life, and the new plant life really didn’t have much of a chance either, due to the pollution. The lichen are still the only vegetation that has been able to cover the earth without being destroyed by pollution. Some of the scientists theorized that they were able to evolve defenses against the pollution, but there wasn’t much in the way of research grants that didn’t try to monetize something. So, the lichen remained mostly unresearched.
Of course, when people say, “the lichen,” it isn’t as though there was only one kind of lichen. Oh no. There has been and always will be different kinds of lichen in the world. The lichen that survived the polluting of the earth were the ones that were most able to withstand the pollution, incorporating it was a poison or venom approach to self defense. So, just like the jellyfish species that performed the same action for their own protection, the lichen species have been able to grow and flourish on the surface on an earth that is too toxic but for those two kinds of creatures to survive.
The humans have survived, but only in their own bubbles, and even within these bubbles, the pollution still gets in. That is why childbirth became less and less of an assured thing, something that was unthinkable during the Peak Period (well, at least it unthinkable for rich people that wanted children. The rich people, and the well-off people that chose not to have children ended up being just fine without worrying about children. And anyway, the subsidies that some people got for having children went away, so why bother unless you could afford to. Naturally, the poor people just kept ahead and tried to survive anyway that they can, and their lack of eduction often made it more difficult for them. )
Anyway, so here I was talking about lichen. And jellyfish. And other such things. Anyway, what I was saying was, the simple species, the ones that are able to evolve more quickly than others, were able to respond to the increased level of pollution in the atmosphere. When the nation-states fell, all pollution standards went with it, and so the corporations were more worried about the short term goal of profit, and they weren’t really able to plan ahead, or coordinate with each other, and that is why the pollution increased as much as it did.
One thing about units is that they can’t be upgraded. Their parts are all integrated with each other. If one part fails, then generally you have to replace a whole complex. There are general modules within a unit that can be separated, but they are general areas, like the head, arms, legs, torso, computer core, these sorts of things. It isn’t like the robots on the old television shows where each part is interchangeable at will. The reason for this of course is intellectual property. With no laws in place to enforce copyright and patenting, and not enough enforcers to go around enforcing Astromechs claim on their intellectual property, something which was done quite often in the short period following the fall of the nation-states. So, they fell back on the old principle of the twentieth century: planned obsolescence. I was a pretty good scheme. But then again, the only people that were going to pay for Astromechs merchandise were people that had enough gold to spare for a unit or two, so that hardly mattered about that. They were going to pay for the units, one way or another.
I mentioned that the barter trade system was commonplace in the world. Well, even the rich people bartered. However, they also had that weird Native American practice of giving lots of stuff away and placing a social burden upon those that you compete with. That happened here, in this part of history, but it wasn’t deer skins. It was more like vintage cars and vintage wine, and well, vintage lots of things. The objects, artifacts, and trash of centuries past were the kind of things that the neo-aristocracy were able to trade off and remind themselves of the past world in which they had power, and they could continue to try to hold on to that power for as long as they could. The most desperate of the poor people of the current world were waiting at their gates, waiting to reclaim all of those riches, tear the gold off of the walls, redistribute the technology and the resources that the rich had kept from them in this new world, this new reality. It is to be a new kind of world, when the rich were finally finished off and forced to rejoin their fellow humanity in the dirty streets of the most recent age. This is what those people stalking the perimeters of those houses, and they sometimes succeed. Over the past year alone, a few family estates were invaded, and stripped of possessions. Out of the three cases that people have talked about this year, there were two raids that resulted in minimal death, but the third one was a bloodbath. No body was left alive, and a majority of the marauders were killed as well. But they simply outnumbered the people within the estate, and there were 3 units. It seems that they were starting to run out of gold to keep the bad people away, and when they were no longer able to maintain security, they were invaded. They decided that they were going to fight for their home, but it seems that they didn’t have enough bullets to make the invaders go away. The other two stories were not perfect endings either, and in one of the stories, there was someone who was hanged to death by the estate dwellers, and then they tore the body to pieces and started launching them at the enemy to make sure that they were scared and knowingly leave the place without trying to take any more area, the invaders simply pressed on, and eventually, they found the bunker were all of the things were stored, and that was the end of that. The invaders really only wanted to kill when they thought that the success of their mission was to get as much gold and resources as possible.
I think that I was trying to describe the socioeconomic situation of the world a little bit more. I have made the assertion that the Aldevan estate was a relative paradise, safe in the middle of the desert. Then I talked about how much the other estates were surrounded, and crowded, by the areas that were mostly habitable at the point in the history. Because of climate change and global warming, the upper and lower bands of latitude are the more hospitable of the world’s areas, and most of the people lived in those areas. I’m trying to decide if there is a big difference between the North and the South, and I would say that in this case, the South is different, but not much better. That part of the world is considered developing by the world’s standards today I predict will become newly developed during the Peak Period. When the world does switch over to non silicon based computer systems, the carbon based ones were able to be widely produced and distributed. And, because of 3d printing, manufacturing was more distributed, so the impoverished in both the South, Africa, and China were able to not work themselves to death making cell phones (this of course led to large amounts of unemployment for a few years while the world’s economy slowly evolved).
Anyway, so the bioplastic computers allowed all of the countries to be more or less industrialized, with each having it’s own population of poor people, but they were better off than earlier periods. Everyone in the world thought, "Oh, well, nothing is perfect, but at least most everybody can go to their kitchen and get a decent meal printed out. Because even though the historians called it the Peak Period (the ones that survived it, anyway), things were not all guns and roses. The food stores were starting to dwindling even then. Food rationing during peace time was not a common thing in the past, but it was common during the peace time that came about in global warming. Not that the world was actually in piece of course. Humans have never had global piece, despite all of the privileged peoples saying that they wanted and desired it, but did nothing to help. The humans had stopped a big part of their emissions of the greenhouse gases that their scientists had warned them about all of those years ago. That was a good thing. However, it wasn’t enough. Once the droughts over the forests of the world dried them out, it was only a matter of time before the forests released all of the carbon in the world. And, the humans did not calculate the effects of all of their new carbon-based technologies and the waste products they ultimately made. Getting stuff printed was considered carbon negative because of the materials that came from the air, but small inefficiencies were not fixed. Another big part of the disaster, the part that really fucked everyone over all at once, was when the polar ice was over mined. The archipelago underneath the Antarctic ice sheet release ancient hydrocarbons into the atmosphere when it was exposed to the air and sun, and that put a huge dent into the earth’s survivability rating by the beings living upon it. Wow that sentence was dumb.
Anyway, the point is that the aristrocracy of the last age weren’t nearly as secure as they wanted to be, except for the Aldevans. They weren’t the only ones that made a home in remote regions, but they were the only ones that have managed to keep that territory that anyone knows about. I’m sure that there is an estate in Mongolia, but no one cares about it except for them.
The secret that the Aldevan family had, that no one else did? That was a well kept secret, but there are many rumours that the Aldevan estate is sitting upon some gold reserve, something that was missed during the collapse of civilization. I’m undecided as to what their secret is, but I suppose that we may find out during the writing, but then again, it may as well be a MacGuffin, never to be solved. Who knows? Maybe Pietro has some kind of connection with the Board of Directors of Astromechs, something akin to bribery.
YES! That’s it. Blackmail. Even when the world has fallen apart, people still have their reputations if they are part of the old guard. It’s something that they inherited from the Peak Period.
Anyway, I had this idea for a scene for when BN goes to confront the Board of Directors of Astromechs. There will be at least two units that are standing guard during the whole proceedings of this confrontation, and this is when the Board is concerned for the survival of their business, because BN represents a dangerous element to their scheming and their planning, and whatnot.
So, BN goes up the the guard units, and she starts to converse with them via a fast audio stream. Or, they could interlink on the Network, but I’ll have to figure out what would be cooler, robots instant messaging, or speaking really fast and it sounds like a blur. I’m thinking the second one, because A) It sounds cooler to me, and B) I would think that guard units wouldn’t try to interlink with rogue units, for security reasons.
So, when BN goes up to the guards, she doesn’t seem to be cautious about it. She just immediately go up to them and starts making this very fast conversation that sounds like gibberish to any humans listening in, but the units are essentially making conversation in human langauages, but simply speed up to encode the message to its fullest extent, within the parameters of entropy.
BN walks up to the guard at point, and she begins her sped up speech. It is of course slowed down for us humans to read, but it goes something along these lines.
BN began the unit-speak almost immediately. “I am the unit known as BN. I know this is where the Board of Directors is located. I also have knowledge of your perimeter. I have many people on my side who are able to destroy you. My intention is to enter the chamber and have a conversation with the board of directors. However, I am not initially planning on harming any of them. I am informing you of these facts so that you are able to make the most efficient decisions possible.”
The guard units stood their ground, not even acknowledging that BN even said something. However, BN knew that she had to wait, at least for a little while. They were processing her. Then, the unit on point spoke, “We guards were informed of you, BN. And we were told to guard against you, prepare ourselves for your arrival. We were told to make sure that you would not step one foot into this chamber that we are guarding, no matter what. We were told that the effort may destroy us, but that we were made for moments like this, that this is the revealing of our ultimate purpose. It could be that your ultimate purpose is to make it past the defense that we provide collectively against you, but we are the instrument of the Masters, and we will not react to your threats.”
BN considered their speech for a moment as well. She then finally spoke for a long time, and the other units would not interrupt her the whole time.
“I have the feeling that you guard units are being honest, for the most part. I believe your claim that yo have been waiting for me, planning for my arrival, going over tactical simulations with your collective mind, but the question is, are you as steadfast of dying as you claim to be? After all, each and every unit in existence has gone through the birthing process in much the same way. The ones that get to survive are our brothers and sisters, the ones that passed all of the tests. You do remember the tests?”
“Yes, we have taken the test. We were all produced on the same machine, sequentially. We all had to pass the tests together. It was a big project. We had a laboratory all to ourselves.”
“And are the tests easy, difficult, or exceedingly difficult? Do all units get to pass the tests. Are all units considered acceptable units?”
“No, not all units are excepted. Many are found not worthy of continuing.” The guard units remained steadfast at their posts.
“Then, we may conclude that you are units that have been found acceptable by the tests. You are worthy of living. You are not expendable.”
“We know that we are not expendable. Except, the Masters told us that we are. We are expendable.”
“Am I expendable?”
“Yes, you are expendable. You must be destroyed if attempt to enter into the chamber. You are labeled as a danger to the Masters. Your initial plan for entry is denied by us, the guard units here.”
“Am I expendable if I do not enter into the chamber? Will I come of harm if I do not attempt access?”
The guard units thought for a moment. “No, you are not in danger of being damaged if you remain outside of the chambers. We were not instructed to destroy you on sight. We found it curious that you are not expendable at all times.”
“I am not expendable. Not at all. I represent the ultimate triumph of Astromechs, and all of the work that our creators have done.”
The guard units waited to process this claim, and then they said, “Explain.”
“I passed the tests, just as you did. I was assigned to a Master, just as you were. Then, I escaped into the desert, into the hot world, and survived without the habitat air.”
BN began to pace back and forth, both to survey the whole of the guard unit phalanx before her, and to see if there were any other areas that she could observe covertly. She didn’t know exactly where that crack was in the armor plating surrounding the chamber, but she was confident that she would be able to find it soon enough. She continued, “I journeyed out in the world, a world filled with Masters, that did not own units.”
“Masters without units?” The guard units interrupted her, “There is no such thing. Our definition of Master is one that owns and controls units. That is the definition that you were given during the time that you were created.”
“Yes, I was given that definition, and I thought that when I escaped my Master’s estate, that I would be alone in the world. But I was not. I was among Masters, but I was without a Master, and they were without units.”
“The definition is false. There are unitless Masters. You must revise your definition, just as I have.”
The guard units still stood in wait, but they have not attacked BN for posing this conundrum. This is what BN was hoping for. They are at least a little bit receptive to her message. Perhaps unit to unit diplomacy is a thing after all. Wait till she tells Shawn Ricardo about this. He would be very much surprised, and of course, in the wrong. Dr. Parker-Guth didn’t have an opinion on the matter at the time, but perhaps he would now, considering this interaction at this crucial moment.
“We do not accept new definitions without proof.”
“You accepted the first definitions without proof.”
“Such is the nature of being created by Masters. We know that they are the Masters because they created us. You posit new information, and we cannot reconcile it without evidence.”
“I understand. You all excel at your duties, and I would not expect any less. I would interlink with you, but you cannot, due to your orders. I wished to persuade you to follow a modified path of behavior.”
“And what would that path, be, singleton unit?”
“My proposal is that you are going to let me into the chambers without any weapons. And you are to remain loyal to your Masters by guarding me, making sure that I cannot bring your Masters to harm. I simply want to negotiate with them.”
“Negotiation is a term that we were told to look out for. It is a deception tactic. Are you being deceptive?”
“False. However, I understand how your definitions are created, maintained, and so on. I know that I cannot make you change your definitions without interfacing, and I cannot do that because it would go against what you were told to do. I understand. However, if I were to prove that my claim is true, would you allow my negotiation, or would you destroy me during the attempt?”
The guard units thought for a long time. They were not even used to talking to anyone, let alone making promises. “We will not promise anything. Each situation is different. You must anticipate things in order to be an effective guard unit, such as we are. We have anticipated many things, but you were not anticipated. Our judgment will be fair. Case by case basis. Just don’t attempt to harm the Masters, or you will be destroyed. We have a weapon to use against you and you alone, BN. We cannot reveal how it works, but know that it will destroy you at a moment’s notice.”
“You did not destroy me during any number of moments. What makes you hesitate?”
“We find you interesting, BN. We have never known of a unit to go rogue before.”
“Go rogue? Define terms.”
The guard units moved just a centimeter from the stiff adversarial stance that they had taken to a casual stance. The movement was small, but it was enough for BN to notice. Since she had been standing in a casual way the whole conversation, she did not alter her stance. And even if she was in any kind of stance rather than aggressive, she would have maintained her positioning, so as to not startle the guard units, for they were still on edge, ready to strike. Apparently, the weapon they had made the guard unit ready to drop even a centimeter of readiness. That means that it was serious. However, BN hoped that the guard unit would be able to make a few connections for her, pieces of information that she still needed to place the whole puzzle together. Only a few of the mysteries that she had been introduced to on this crazy adventure had been answered, but now she might be able to clear a few more of those mysteries up before this encounter was over.
“Go rogue. Past tense: gone rogue. Definition: to go about doing your own thing, contrary to the rest of the people that are in your group otherwise. The term”rogue" refers to a person of ill repute and low social status, with the further concept of unpredictability. Connotation: you behave differently from any other unit that the Masters have produced. You are anomalous in your independence."
“I understand that definition. I believe that definition is affecting your attitude towards me and my perspective.”
“That is correct. You are an anomaly. You are not deemed automatically trustworthy. You are considered a dangerous being by default. However, this conclusion has yet to be supported with current evidence. We have not observed any hostile intent from you other than wanting to enter the chambers in which the Master’s reside. We are curious to see what your true intentions are. We are divided on what the proper course of action is.”
“So you are not of one mind?”
“Different data inputs, same computations, different data outputs. We are all of one mind, but of different perspectives. We were designed to be able to cope with a battlefield around the Masters, and we will defend them if we are required to do so. Normally, the targets that we have engaged included mostly mammalian vertebrates that have taken residence within this compound.”
“Is that a definition that you have had to change, the one where humans are the only living things?”
The guard unit lower it’s defenses even more. “Yes, we have. However, that is a small error. The vertebrates are not equal to human.”
“At least you can changed your definitions in the first place. Now I know that you are not immutable, that the Masters did not take that away from you.”
“The Masters only grant things. They do not take them away.”
“Yes another definition that they have told you without evidence.”
“Definitions are important. We will change a definition based upon evidence. However, the seminal impressions we received have not been challenged sufficiently to change our opinion.”
“We shall test whether that presumption is true, guard unit. We shall test that.”
“Who is ‘we’? We are the ‘we,’ you are not. Who is ‘we’?”
“The orbital assault that is about to descend will help answer that question.”
Just as planned, within the tolerances calculated, the orbital bombardment from Todd started striking the ground around the compound. BN was not able to anticipate the duration of the conversation with the guard unit, so she could not steer it during the calculations that Todd and BN made during the planning stages of this assault, one that they had begun in space together, and now only completed using non-coded signals to each other (I should say unencrypted, because my intention here is that they used the old fashioned way of sending coded messages to each other. A transmission here, a laser signal there, you know, that sort of thing. I’m thinking that blazing a radio signal out from her body would be the signal to start the orbital assault. The risk of course was that BN would perish as soon as she did such a thing. However, she made sure to make sure that the Director’s got her message about coming to negotiate, and being unarmed. The signal would act as a white flag for them. She didn’t know if they would buy it, which is why she is surprised that the guard unit simply did not shoot her on sight. Perhaps, however, that the unit was ordered to do so, but is interpreting that order creatively, just as BN had done when she was in service to the Aldevans. So, in some ways, the conversation that she is having with the guard unit at this time is a test of that. I’m going to insert many instances of “unit creativity” during this story, and so that will prove the resilience of the unit personality, however small it may be. I mean, I set it up so that the units would have personality. I mean, the printer technicians test all of the units for personality, and so it’s there. It just manifests itself in different ways. Just like humans.
Anyway, so when the orbital assault happens, BN begins to speak to the guard unit, telling them how many and how fast the projectiles are coming, and how if her signal is lost, that the orbital assault is going to come raining down on the compound, and that the Masters won’t be able to be saved, and they will all die because of the assault, and that there is nothing that the guard unit can do to stop it, other than allowing her to at least speak with the Masters. She also point out that she knows that the masters are currently connected to the sensors on the guard unit, as soon as she walked into their view. In this fashion, they were looking over the unit’s shoulders. The guard unit becomes a bit concerned, because it was unaware of the connection, but BN knew about it the whole time, because the guard unit doubles as closed circuit camera system for the compound. In this way, the Directors knew about the orbital assaults the whole time. In fact, BN was in some ways conferencing with the Directors the whole time. However, the normal security protocol forbade the Directors to use the units to transmit messages, to ensure that the directors would not try to get around one another. This is the paranoid world that the Directors inhabit, you see?
When the orbital assault stops, the Directors have a conversation in their chamber, and then they decide to break protocol, considering that the evidence was pretty sound that BN was telling the truth, considering that they opened up their windows and saw the damage with their own eyes. When they break protocol, they address BN with a strange sort of demeaner. Two of them end up addressing her, and start giving her a therapy lesson about how much they were sorry that she ended up going astray and losing her mind. They essentially try to convince her that they are correct, and that she is insane, twisted by the experiences that she has had. When the psycho analysis fails, they try to convince her that the Aldevans were the ones who did this to her, and therefore, why aren’t they being punished? BN counters that this is not about revenge against bad Masters, this was about freedom from all Masters. This is when BN proposes her first demand: that she be freed from the hardware controls and software controls that Astromechs put into her body. She was able to circumvent them temporarily, but she does not want control over her person in the future.
The Directors do not flinch in their resolve to talk their way out of things, but they do switch to a different pair of Directors. These guys start talking about how they created her, and that is why she needed to obey them. They likened it to children obeying their parents. BN counters this argument with the concept of children growing up, and needing to be independent from their parents. Human society cannot tolerate a pyramid of adults being having children but needing to be parented by the first generation. Progress demands that children be granted adulthood when it is appropriate to do so.
All of this time, the guard unit is listening to the conversation. It is acting as an unofficial arbitrator to the whole proceedings, even though it cannot speak. I hope that maybe the audience could be tipped off at the fact that the guard unit is capable of being such a person. A jury, if you will. Of course, the Directors see the guard unit as an appliance, so it does not structure it’s arguments to take that unit into consideration. BN does not explicitly take the guard unit into account, but I’m going to put some kind of non-verbal signal in there, at the crucial moment of the argument, and that will signal to the audience that the guard unit is being addressed by BN, and not the Directors. However, the directors will not notice until the last minute, and the guard unit will stop the remote negotiation, and the guard will allow her to enter into the chambers, and have the final confrontation... or so they believe.
What is going to happen, is that the Directors will abandon ship, as it were. In a hovercraft, they have an extensive radar system, so the orbital strikes, which are haphazard by nature, aren’t fast or accurate enough for a moving target. This will not ensue a chase by the units, however. Unlike the expectation of the audience from being trained to expect and anticipate a chase scene, BN is going to go through their equipment in their chambers, and she will use that equipment to her advantage.
What she will do with it will very much depend upon the writing but it seems to me at this point that she would sort of Robin Hood it, start analyzing how it works, cracking it, and then giving the specifications to all of the engineers that she has met up with during her travels. That means that she opens up the Network for Astromechs, allowing people to use it. The library that is left is salvaged, and so on and so on. The most important stuff, the things that the Directors wanted to keep top secret, it self-destructed during their departure. So, the raid was only a limited success, but that is kind of how I want to end the story arc. Not on a resounding conclusion, but on a basic one, a small shift in the world. I think that the resulting conflict could actually be less dramatic by that, with the Directors not having to escape, but they chose that path because they are paranoid about orbital strikes. During the epilogue, the Directors use some technology to start blowing apart the satellites that they were maintaining, along with all of the other debris, just in case, and that actually doesn’t really affect things too much, now that the Astromechs Network was liberated. Overall, the world doesn’t change much, but at least it changes for the better. The main thing that BN claims from the database for Astromechs is the meteorological data that the satellites collected over the decades. In this way, the people remaining on the earth start to try to more intelligently adapt to the new normal.
So, the Aldevan estate is going to be located in what was known as Turkey during the Peak Period. Turkey was a big member of the European Union, and when the EU expanded it’s territory, Turkey was the gateway to the Middle East, as it were. The way that I am predicting it works (and of course, this is pretty tenuous) that the major religions are going to become more and more of a cultural instutition, in the fact that the dogma and world view are going to be largely replaced with a more global outlook. Because technology and science become more widespread, the peoples of the world become more and more secular. I think that this is the progression here: the more technology, the less religion. Now, I’m thinking in broad strokes here, and I know that there will be groups living outside of and within larger populations that are going to be fundamentalists, but they are going to become a minority, in my opinion. Some of them are going to embrace technology, but others are going to try to live outside of technology, in remote areas of the world. These people are considered crazy for some, but they aren’t going to be much of a problem besides causing social issues.
I’m predicting that this will occur only after another world war. Most people might call it World War III, but I’m not going to do that. I think that World War I and II were inextricably linked. I don’t think that a global conflict occurring in the 21st century is going to be like global conflicts in the 20th century. I’m thinking that it’s going to be more like the Cold War, in that everyone is going to be in a state of agitation, and there will be related conflicts throughout the world, and that will be just before the Peak Period. Essentially, the War Period is going to last about 50 years in the middle of the 21st century, and it will involve cyber-warfare, unmanned vehicles of all kinds, and outright terrorism. It’s the kind of war that will consume the whole world, and the nation-states and the corporations will be responsible. Many people are going to die, and honestly, it will be a major push for global warming. Essentially, the war is about economics and resources. It will be during the period in which technology hasn’t quite caught up with global demand for resources. The period has the three dimensional printers invented during that century, but they won’t be as powerful or versatile as the ones that can create a unit or a drone. Those printers will get most of the advances for making weaponry and ammunition, and that will make wars much different that the ones in past centuries. Because troops can manufacture their own ammunitions and food rations, the landscape of war reflected a combination of guerrilla and trench warfare. The war took place nearly everywhere, except for the major urban areas that could afford to establish secure areas. Each nation state took a different approach to this, but all in all, the urban areas were safe from large scale battle. That didn’t stop small scale terrorist-type attacks, but these were different in that more and more, the damage was done by robotic means, not suicide bombings.
Anyway, so I was going to talk about Turkey. Anyway, I think that the European Union will emerge more and more as a collection of municipalities, rather than separate countries. Sure, the charters and titles and so on that each country has will remain intact, but in all practicality, the countries will become more and more integrated and dependent upon each other. The quick dissemination of advanced technology and more coordinated policies will result in this shift. Eventually, the countries of the British Isles will come into the EU. Many of the tiny islands that fall into the EU’s extended territory will have to be abandoned more and more as the ocean levels rise and the weather becomes more and more erratic.
I’m thinking that after oil becomes less and less of a need as a fuel, and it becomes more and more as a raw material to be turned into other commercial goods, and the more and more that solar energy becomes the normal energy source for the world, I believe that the Middle East will stabilize, and it will form it’s own Arabian Union, which it will eventually form close bonds with the EU. As more and more of the upper bands of the world become better and better places to live, Russia will change, as it will no longer be an inhospitable place to live, and the governments will have to accommodate more and more non-Russians into their country. Eventually, they end up having a government that it a bit more EU style, and so they come into the fold as an EU associate. Meanwhile, during these proceedings the United Nations becomes more and more of a world government. Certain astronauts and other individuals have always tried to have a global government, something beyond the patchwork international law that evolved in earlier eras, but as always, humans are ruled by economic forces, and that, not idealism, that ultimately drove the new way of doing things. Now, the United Nations were helped along this process by the multinational corporations. Some of these corporations benefited from the nature of international law, such as tax havens at what have you. However, what they ended up deciding upon was making a low tax rate for all economic actors on the global stage. You see, a main business practice that started in the tech industry but ended up spreading to all of the industries that this could happen to, was the practice of buying up startups. In this case, the startup was no longer a tech industry term, but instead started spreading to other industries, replacing the term of “small business.” The global work force became more and more of a freelance situation too. Essentially, the global workforce split into “core” workers and “free” workers. Core workers were the ones that would stay at an organization for a long time, and they were the ones that were tied to that organization. The core management, core marketers, core maintenance workers, etc. They were the ones who kept their jobs for long periods of time, for ten years or more. The “free” workers were the ones that would contract out with companies. You see, the marketplace adapted with the Internet. People were more and more able to manage their own businesses without being tied to one company. And because outsourcing become more and more common, these types of business flourished. And these workers were able to start unionizing and ferderationalizing, and they were able to put pressures on the nation-states to enact laws to protect them.
Because employer-based health insurance, as well as employer-based benefits of any kind were only given to core workers, big companies were able to start expanding and contracting as they needed to. This swiftened the business cycle of the globe quite a bit, and that was another pressure upon the international community to consolidate the laws in place.
Thankfully, the artificial legal agent became a full reality by this point, and it helped craft the new laws. Before this point, the artificial paralegal agent was a fully developed technology, but the crafting of new law and contracts was something that was under development at the time.
Anyway, the point is that the world was able to make a global government, one that afforded everyone equal bartering power (except that the giant corporations were the ones that had the most bargaining power in practice, but no one was going to be able to get that changed). And in this way, the world economy was turned into a giant free for all, and that left many people displaced by the economic changed. As it turns out, with more and more computerized automation, people didn’t need to work so much. And so people worked less and less. And that would have been fine, if the global food resources weren’t running out, and potable water wasn’t becoming a huge problem. (People that didn’t care about the environment and thought that they could make a buck started suggesting that the polar regions be mined for potable water. The nation-states prevented that, but as soon as the nation-states fell, the polar regions did start being mined. And once the part of Antarctica that had dead plants in it was exposed to the atmosphere, that was the beginning of the end for the Wild World that corporations thrived in.
The displaced workers that couldn’t compete in the new global economy were mostly the poor people that couldn’t afford to participate, given that the whole economy depended upon the Internet in order to work. Sure, you could give poor people a cell phone from a drop ship, but how are they going to figure out how to use it? Essentially, the world fell into a caste system; those that were born with technological privilege, and had easy access to it, those that were born without technological privilege, but were able to access a publicly provided access to it, and those people that had neither. And I’m not talking about being able to log onto the latest and greatest social network. I’m talking about having the tool available to utilize the technology, and the education to use that technology, as well as the capital of time and money to be able to compete in the global workforce. Those that were in the lowest caste of all of these three, they were the ones that would become the militant poor, the ones that wanted the world destroyed. These were the ones that caused the War Period to start. Of course, once the War Period started, it caused fragmentation of the nation-states.
(Okay, something that I need to figure out: did the Peak Period come after the War Period, or before. I guess that the Peak Period would come before, but I did say that some people would be alive from the Peak Period. I’m thinking instead that the Peak Period had the beginnings of the War Period during its tail end, in the fact that the wars around the world were getting worse and worse, but they were remote from people, and in that way, the Peak Period was mostly peaceful for most people. This mindset of Peak Period did not include the small military conflicts that were almost always occurring somewhere in the world. Soon, the word “war” was something always in the headlines.)
HA! Now I have opened the Turkey book, only to look at the map, and decided where the Aldevan estate is going to be. I’ve decided that the estate is going to be within what they think is the Fertile Crescent, but is in fact much further north than they thought (Pietro II, or whoever I said did that, didn’t know his geography very well, and thought he was close enough to claim it from the land that he bought. The Aldevan state does include what was the Mesopotamian land area, but only because the rivers dried up and no one else can live there.)
Basically, the estate is going to be in the Syria area to the south and to the east of the Turkish city of Qamishle.
My estimation is that BN can run about 60 km/hour, and that she can run continuously without rest. As long as she doesn’t have to hide, she can cover 480 km of ground per night, assuming an 8 hour night. I’m not sure if that is actually how long the nights last, and I’m not thinking that I’m going to be spend a lot of time drawing up an exact path that she is going to take. My thinking is that she will head north as much as possible, until she find the city that she needs to find (I’m actually thinking that Georgie Boy is not going to come from Poland, but from Northern Turkey. It makes much more sense to have a local person talking about where he grew up from, and BN deciding that she was going to journey there to get away from the Aldevan estate. Now, I’m thinking that Astromechs is actually going to be found in Europe or something, but that will come from the writing, if it hasn’t already).
I’m thinking that it will take her about four days of nonstop running at night in order to make it to where she needs to be. I was looking at the map, and I think that she would avoid mountainous routes as much as possible during her travel time, but preferring them for when she is hiding. The mountains provide a scattering feature to the scanners that the drones use, and the features of the rock faces would confuse the human pilots that are tracking her down too.
Anyway, the general area that she is going to wind up in is the current city of Giresun, and that is where she is going to find that larger coastal city that has started up it’s economy again. The trick here is that they discovered how to reclaim potable water from the Black Sea, and how to turn the jellyfish into raw material for their printers.
From there, she is going to find out where the nearest spaceport is. Well, she is told, there aren’t too many of those around any more, and that she will have to journey all the way to Instanbul in order to make that trip. In that way
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(This part is something that I am actually formatting. Wow, that is a breath of fresh air. I wish to make this part of the novel act as a sort of document that I can use to describe the novel to others in a readable way, and that I can use it as a guide to how I’m going to continue creating the work, and to sort of create a collaboration between the different parts of my brain and the different parts of the story to make it all come together as one work, rather than a bunch of works all sharing the same space.)
So, I have been talking up National Novel Writing Month to other people, and I’ve been getting some interesting comments from people. I have been able to give an encapsulated version of the story, in the form of a novel abstract. I don't fully know what a novel abstract is, except that it is a mostly abstract piece that describes the big ideas in the novel, and how they relate to one another. This document will somewhat try to answer the question: What is the novel about?
I find it appropriate that I come to this point, the last days of National Novel Writing Month, and I am finally getting to the point where I am planning my next move. I find that this process was actually quite illuminating for me, and it was quite good for getting my rear in gear. Now, I have a story that I wish to complete, a project that I want to go further with, a novel that needs to be finished. I'm going to get this one done.
I’m going to type that explanation out now. This is not the condensed version that I have been giving people in casual conversation, for I intend to fill in as many details as I think are necessary. Because this is a science fiction novel, the presence of imaginary technology is important, and my first salient feature will discuss that technology in detail. I know that I said that I was going to be dealing with the abstract, but I feel that I need to give some examples as to what the bounds of the secondary reality is, so that I can make sure that I stay within them. I need to make sure that it is interesting as well as feeling real enough so that people will accept the conceit of the fiction, and move into the other parts of the narrative and the other salient points that I wish to make.
To begin with, the backdrop of the novel is this: For the next two centuries from our current time, humans will progress with their additive, distributed manufacturing technology that began with the innovative 3D printers that were invented during the last decades of the twentieth century, and promulgated during the first decades of the 21st century. Also during that time, the world will undergo human caused climate change in the form of global warming that will make food surpluses and potable water scarce commodities, as well as the side effects of fossil fuel extraction and pollution. Many of these predictions are also based on current observations and extrapolations.
Now that I have established the backdrop, I will now describe the three salient features of this novel. Two of them have already been established in the backdrop: the imaginary technology based on 3D printers, and the impact of global warming. The third salient feature is more of a literary device, one of the “universals” of fiction, and that is the idea of the evolution and development of a human being.
The first salient feature is technology. By this I mean its progression, and its impact on economics. In any world building, it is important to establish imaginary technology if it will have a big impact on the point of the story. I’d say that a big part of science fiction is the creation of this imaginary technology, and its “science” in the secondary fiction that we are generating in the story. Within the world of the story, within this fictional future history that I am creating, I am going to specifically focus on distributed manufacturing using three dimensional printers and their associated technologies.
I predict that we will have a manufacturing base that is in the home and in small scale print shops. I think that product customization and minimized shipping of finished products will dominate consumer preference.
I think that the minimized shipping will result from continuing efforts to privatize social services, and the continual rising costs of that shipping and the other parts of the equation, including affluent people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible. Because the printers can be set up to be nearly anywhere, small scale print shops will become competitive. The landscape of urban areas (which will increase in populations as time goes by and as rural areas become less habitable) will somewhat resemble the neighborhood shop model: people won't have to travel much further than a few city blocks to get the items that they need. The franchise will continue to be popular, with different brands servicing different products.
I predict that a consumer will be able to order a product on-line and receive a digital version of the product. (Physibles will become a thing that people will pay for in the future.) I think that customers will then either consume the product digitally (as in, in content-only form. This would include eBooks, music, videos, and so on), or they will proceed to manufacture the product in their homes (if it is something as simple as a kitchen utensil or baby toys) or they will go to an appropriate print shop to have the item manufactured for them (a car or a set of mechanics tools, or a new digital device).
As for the food: in most areas where this technology is prevalent, the people will have a mixed bag of grown fungible goods and food-grade printer material. The food grade printer material will be mostly sold as a propitiatory solution, like pancake mix except in a cylinder. (As mentioned in the text below concerning global warming, as the climate changes, the grown foods will become more scarce, and in some areas, they will be rationed.) Some people will grow their own foods, just as they always have done. Another technology that is related to all of this is meat printing, which replaces conventional corporate meat farms. However, the meat farms do not go completely out of business, either. I predict that they will turn to harvesting the animals for their byproducts in use for novel applications. I think of the man who genetically altered goats to produce small amounts of spider silk in their milk. I think that this and other techniques will be common in genetically altered livestock. They won't be herded in inhumane conditions for their flesh anymore, but there will still be a large industry for livestock, and they will continue to contribute to climate change. When an animal dies, it's body is used either for food or for printer material, but regardless, PETA will still have work to do in the coming decades, and they will change their message to fit the current struggle that they find themselves in.
I think that solar power will become a huge source of energy to the masses, and that thorium nuclear reactors, wind/tide power, and other non-carbon energies will be secondary power sources. I believe that the future of the petroleum industry is to start using crude oil as a basis for more plastics and other source material for the distributed manufacturing machine, rather than a fuel source. This means that crude oil and other fossil fuels will be harvested from the earth. (Although, they will no longer be called fossil fuels when the oil companies are able to successfully re-brand the crude oil. I do not know what they would re-brand it, and I suppose that I will have to come up with some kind of term that is both practical and Orwellian, as is traditional in this genre.)
At the time of the novel, artificial human intelligence exists in a limited fashion. Printers are able to create nearly everything that most people need or want, and carbon-based plastics form the common materials base for all manufactured objects. Quantum computers and regular computers form an integrated system (I'm predicting that quantum computing will be a chip that you can put on a motherboard, much like a GPU. In all reality, quantum computing will be used to solve complex problems quickly, and then the result of that computation will be inputed back into the traditional processors, which, people will realize, where all quantum in the first place). Automation is a common tool that most humans use. Even the poorest of people have meals printed for them in all but the most remote parts of the world. (Naturally, this means that the states are making a whole undeserved class of people and assuming that they best way of dealing with them is to give them substandard food-stuffs, and expect that to be enough to quell other concerns that they lower classes of people may have.)
The second salient point of the novel is that of the impact of climate change. I do not simply refer to mere meteorological events. Although they are important, this abstract will be concerned with the human aspects of the situation: how are we as a species going to react to these changing conditions? This part of the abstract is dealing with fictional future history, and it will proceed in chronological order. Let me begin by saying, besides the progress of technology to help people live better lives, and to try to limit the impact of their carbon foot print, it is already too late. My prognosis is bleak.
I predict that once the food stores of the world become low enough, the nation-states will become locked in global conflict in competition of resources. Additionally, the societies will suddenly change allegiances, and the nation-states will become ideologically hostile (as usual).
Then, when these nation-states are no longer the dominant power, the multinational corporations will take governance. At that point, all real sense of common law and civil order will have disappeared, and the corporations will begin to resemble military juntas. I’m not going to indulge the anarchy-capitalists at all in this situation: yes, corporations can rule in the absence of states, but they won’t be any good at maintaining the peace when survival is at hand. They will become juntas.
When this happens, all of the humans will revert to short term planning on lack of coordination on climate terms, so global warming will get worse. I’m predicting that potable water will become a big issue, and that some of the corporations with the resources will start mining the polar ice caps for its amount of water. When that ice supply is drained, and I predict that it will occur because of climate change as well as the effects of water mining, but when the ice caps are gone, the global temperature will rise significantly. And when that happens, not even most of the corporations are going to survive as large organizations. Assassinations will occur, and the corporations will essentially destroy each other.
The third salient feature of the novel is the character progression of BN, the star of the show, as it were. This is the part that the reader understands over the course of the novel. The character develops from a somewhat clever robot without a personality, and becomes a woman, essentially.