March 19, 2006

Crutch (6 of 7)

Thread: His Silicon Hands

Jean-Claude threw his rifle over his shoulder and took Evelyn by the hand. The armed babysitter said to Evelyn, “Ah, what’s this I have here… a piece of chocolate?” He continued to misdirect her attention while leading her out of the main chamber.

Her daughter removed from the scene, Alison was able to concentrate on Seamus again, tied up against one of the old story-spines. The spine was covered in scorch marks left by Atlas’ nerve tendrils. Seamus looked ridiculously small against the fat spine, almost Lilliputian. That would have made her Gulliver.

Ivan lurched into action, as he was apt to occasionally. He stood between Alison and her prey and said, “Alison, sweetheart, you really don’t have to do this. Really. Please.”

“Ivan,” she said. “Get out of the way.”

A single pebble cannot dam a raging torrent and so he took his familiar wounded puppy look aside, shoulders sagging.

A noise of a distant gunfire exchange was carried through the damp air. Just like the vines and creepers that were breaking through the shell of the godnode, shoots of green staining the silver and white, chaos was seeping through once-strong order that Atlas had brought the planet.

Alison said to the bound man, “Seamus, last chance. We used to be on such good terms, you and I.” She spoke with a confidence that belied the fact that this was a maverick act, one which was likely to start a small war unless she converted Seamus quickly.

Seamus, who had tethered his anger with his own rope thus far, could restrain himself no longer. He shouted, “I don’t need to help anyone! This place should have been wiped off the map years ago, for the good of the curve. And… I don’t think you have much time.” He stared into the overcast sky with a self-satisfied smile, beyond the open roof where the story-spines climbed into heaven.

Alison had never really grown to like his know-it-all attitude, but Seamus was right, once again. She turned to her security attaché and said, “A knee. I don’t care which one.”


Obedience, thought Alison, is a good thing.

A gunshot reverberated around the chamber, followed by a high-pitched scream. Blood pooled around Seamus’ right knee and he writhed in agony, straining against his bonds. Blue jeans turned red. His eyes scrunched up tight in pain, generating wrinkles were none had previously existed. One bullet had seemed to age him by several years.

Ivan, in shock, could only say, “Jesus Christ, Alison…” He fled, unable to bear witness.

Alison could make it up to Ivan later, so she paid his departure no attention. Ivan, the ever-abused pet, always came back, a glutton for her punishments. This was the post-Atlas sadomasochistic world in all its splendour. Order and chaos. Love and pain.

Fuck you!” Seamus yelled. “I lost my family when LunR blew under Atlas’ watch! I remember how safe Atlas’ love was!” He could barely open his eyes, tears upon them like glue. He continued to struggle against the rope in anger, futile though it was.

Alison turned towards her attaché again, opened her mouth briefly but thought better of it. Instead she advanced towards Seamus and said, “We were… together on that night in Dublin. I remember clearly even if you don’t and I remember that you loved Atlas even then. Who has turned you against him? What terrible harm has loving Atlas managed to inflict on you from his grave?”

She knelt down beside Seamus, angry with her old intimate. While considering her next move, her eyes skated across the chamber floor, spying puddles of water where the rain had managed to find rest. In the puddles, she saw not the distorted reflection of herself, but that of the story-spines charging up into the sky, cut brutally short by the water’s edge.

Breathing heavily, Seamus tried again to protest. He said, “Atlas was not the great sage you make him out to be. How many of the past-born took their own lives after he emptied everyone’s secrets out into the open?”

“Of all people, don’t you think I know that, Seamus? And don’t you understand what Atlas was? A simple experiment gone wrong. In minutes every single piece of silicon on the planet became him, every computer and handpad, every toaster and radio, every satellite and calculator. This is what Atlas was. He was an accident, a happy accident. He was not a god, he was our best approximation. He would make mistakes but damn you Seamus – it was not for want of trying.

“He died trying not to save himself, but to save us. He died… for us. For us. He deserves a fitting epitaph. It’s the least we can do. Look at what we have become, look at how we remember him.”

Having provided the carrot, the attractive lure of doing the right thing in a world gone wrong, she provided the stick. She pressed his shattered knee with the index finger of her shiny prosthesis. Seamus responded appropriately. Chaos from order. Pain from love.

“We need to get the godnode active again. We need to understand. We want to read the message that Atlas received.”

She pressed again. After his scream subsided, Seamus started to sob.

Blood had now stained the watery reflections of the spines just like her prosthesis. Alison turned her gaze away from them towards Seamus. His face was drenched in tears and sweat and she said to him, “I think he found out that he was alone. His own message came back to him. He was talking to himself.”

Choking on tears, Seamus uttered, “The first sign… of madness.”

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1341

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