-Michael Herr, Dispatches
-Michael Herr, Dispatches
a–steve, that electric bastard took me out to the new int’l big-time government kneejerked up the freakhole art gallery of earth. up in a nice low-orbit over the south pole, good views, nice cafeteria, nicer lounge. even though i always get persnickety when it comes to the kneejerks and the creatives, i have to admit they did a pretty good job with the place. it’s amazing to me what all those governement credits can get done because the collection is probably the most intense and for want of a better effing word, awesome, in the solar system. i bet those high-minded, enlightened kneejerks running the jupiter settlements are pooping in their scrambled eggs. and for all his flawed circuits a-steve hit me right on the money forcing me to see the place. it. did. inspire. i realized that for so long a big part of my problem was i had stopped outputting. getting inside the cubes and letting that world take command doesn’t do a thing for anything, let alone oneself. staring deep into colours that had true emotion behind them, that a person decided to put there because they felt that was where it needed to go. brought me back to the days with champ and the two of us putting t.m.w.p.t.s. together. no worries about the kneejerks or turds, just dirty sweats and cheap beer and freeze-dried sandwich bowls and idea after idea after idea. couldhave spent a month in front of some of those works if a-steve didn’t shuttle me on, the facilty is mama huge. there is a lot to see and i have got to admit (and by extension recommend) that the a.i. wing is right up there, a-steve being the connoisseur his self-developing nano-circuits made him to be was especially deep into these robot works of art. oh’s and one’s and still life’s with vacuum tubes. i promise myself that i am going to get back to doing the goddamn work.
wasted a lot of do-time absorbed in the streams. light-speed inanity. where did the good stuff go? we were good. where did we go? don’t answer that. dimmed the feed and stared out the window. it was a lot of the same. ultra-def life and death black and white in an infinitude of colours. it pulls at something inside some kind of nagging itching throbbing pushing grabbing gushing wanting needing thing i don’t know what. my unit can’t explain it to me. i find that disconcerting. i kill the streams and shutter the windows and pour myself a tall stiffy. then another. i numb out but it doesn’t wholly shut down the feeling. that. i. am. bored. out of my freaking head. business is good but i’m not in it, not like when i started and it was all go-go-go, until…it wasn’t supposed to be like this. not this way. no, we would all be here and it would be all our imaginations together in the soup, serving up a stew that the wasted masses would guzzle like we were a big ass stew-spewing mega-tit. we believed they needed it then and more than ever i believe they need it now but i’m not in the place i was to get it done. let them have their auto-this’s and electro-that’s, sure no problem, let me fabricate it for you, most best price. now how about i tell you a story? no, can’t wrap your free-thinkless mind around the idea? or can you? i’m too dis-en-effing-franchised to think about it. let alone worry. it’s times like these i fully understand the allure of the cubes. there is no boredom in that world. but i will never go back there. so i stay bored.
i’ve got shit stains
on my underwear
it’s a real pain
to wash them outta there
i must stop reacting
so awesome extreme
to every rad thing
that i see
my high intensity
causin’ me shit stains
and i am seriously running low on clean drawers
Technician Steve walked slowly down the corridor. He was still figuring in his head and hoped a slow lope would give him the time he needed. He had concerns and his brain was madly trying to address them, and with every step came every thought that came to the same conclusion: unknowns.
There was a fountain in the wall and he stopped at it, bending over to let the cool water splash up against his lips. Not drinking, just thinking. What will happen? Imaginings ran wildly in his mind trying to answer that question. He pulled away and a shiver shook itself through his body. Was that fear or excitement? He wondered. Crud or awesome? Both most likely. He thumbed his communicator.
A brown voice spoke back, “Yes, Technician Steve?”
“What do your calculations say again?”
“The same thing yours do, Technician Steve.”
“I have got a swackload of unknowns, Technician Jim.” It came out greyer than he had wanted it to sound.
“She says it’s not an issue, Technician Steve,” he said, his voice a darker brown, “It has always been a given on this project we would be making some of it up as we went along.”
Brown turned black, “No buts, Technician Steve, no uncertainty. Unknowns are a factor in everything. She and we have figured the factors. Factored and figured everything. You more than most. More than even she has, probably.” The black beiged, “It’ll be alright, Technician Steve. This is for the greater good, all for the best. Understand.”
I swallowed the grey in my mouth, let the brighter hues of what Technician Jim was saying coat it instead.
“Yes, I get it.”
“Good.” White. “Now please make your way to the control centre, the Big Lady is prepped, ready, and itchin’ to go.”
“Jolly on,” Technician Steve answered and continued off down the corridor.
The control centre was humid with nervous calm, the kind that moists up when people who know what they’re doing are about to do something they know they don’t know what. Nobody paid attention as Technician Steve entered and went to his terminal. He was glad of that. Of their focus. Did they know? About. The. Unknowns. Of course they did. He sat at his master control station, juiced it up, and logged himself in. His viewscreen came alive and he was seized by it. Complicated pieces of the curious puzzle buzzed before him as he watched her wondering. Watched her thinking. Her. The Big Lady. The brains behind the new future of the new future society built by the society of the future. The U.S.A.I. United Society Artificial Intelligence. Technician Steve couldn’t help but smile, as he let his thoughts slide momentarily to the monumental free-thinking supercomputer housed beneath a protective mountain shield that had boldly taken charge of the tattered and confused populace. Re-organizing, guiding, helping as was so badly needed and wanted. It was humankinds most massive marvel and one which Technician Steve had helped build with his own two hands. The Big Lady. Because lady knows best, and humanity deserved nothing but the best. Period. He let the smile last a second longer and then bent into the task at hand, bent into the terminal in front of him, bent into her.
“Technician Steve,” the lady’s voice was a rainbow. Always a rainbow. It felt him fine.
“What’s our status, Big Lady?”
No hesitation, never hesitation, “Global data piles are at 98% capacity and rising as calculated. Creation versus deletion rates are still at ratio 4.3/1. We must dump soon or a catastrophic system clog is imminent.
Technician Steve was well aware of all this. So was she. It was Big Lady’s way of letting him know it was the right thing to do despite the unknowns. She wasn’t nervous like he was, balancing the what-if’s against the what-will’s, even as her and society’s demise loomed closer with every bit and/or byte. We’ve thunk ourselves into a corner, he thought, this is our only option. Or else what? Crashtastrophe? Re-boot the world? Start over? First one 0, then one 1, then…damn.
Too much data. Not enough space.
“Ready to bring the drive on-line, Technician Steve,” said the supercomputer. Technician Steve nodded, cleared his head, and concentrated on the job. Status reports from all the other Technicians flooded to him. All nominal. All Green. Alright. He typed the command into his terminal: GO.
Orbiting high above the Earth, a massive jumble of technological awesomedom slowly glew into being. Electrons shook themselves awake and began to flow and its complicated electric guts warmed to life. And then it opened itself up. Bigtime.
At his station Technician Steve acknowledged the drive was on-line and U.S.A.I. confirmed it with her ever soft coloured coo. He watched the readouts as the drives volume was generated. He inhaled. It expanded. He exhaled. It grew. He stared. The number really grew. Big, then large, then huge, then tremendous, then tremendouser, then ultra-big, then super-large, then mega-huge, then most-tremendous, and then it got weird, and then it got–
“Infinite capacity achieved,” In blinding white came the call from the Big Lady. Technician Steve shuddered. An infinite capacity hard drive. We did it. Made infinity. Our very own infinitude free to fill with all our whatever, forever. He shuddered again. It begged the question: What begins when it begins?
“Shall I begin,” The Big Lady was all beautiful business, ladylike and intent, “the data transfer?”
“Okay, let’s go,” His voice/being/conscience grey/orange/blue, “very slowly.” He typed the command and held his breath. One 0, one 1, the smallest pieces of the littlest bits of chunks of data were dropped into the fresh, new void they had made. A new universe. Sweet mama.
Technician Steve sat at his terminal monitoring the data dump personally for as long as he felt he should until he decided he could take a break away from the control centre. Even still his curiosity would not let up, his brain engaged with this fresh universe of ever moving, growing , and expanding streams and clusters of numbers, words, images, songs, games, programs, things, dots, lines, shapes, and more and more and more and more of whatfor and whatnot and whatetc. Spreading ever forth into a pristine, grand nothingness so as to clear the choking electric air humanity had come to inhabit. They threw it all into the deep disk. 0’s, 1’s, everything.
Technician Steve stared at his ceiling.
The Big Lady buzzed away in her mountain.
Society beamed and ran itself ‘round and ‘round itself a million times a millisecond.
The massive jumble of the deep disk hummed in its place in space.
The sound was soft.
The signal was a faint one.
But it blasted Technician Steve out his reverie and like lightning to his remote terminal interface.
“Technician Steve?” The sound of a weird rainbow.
“That signal is originating from inside the hard drive.” “I know.” He boosted the gain.
A voice crackled through the speaker, “Hello?”
Technician Steve stared. Unknowns and Infinity and 0’s and 1’s.
Off to the motherfuckin’ races.
The speaker spoke again. It had no colour. It was new. It was pure.
“Is anybody out there?”
riding the wave of self-diagnosticated inspired do-ism, and realizing i needed something to jack me out of this boredhole that didn’t involve jacking in or off or up, i took a trip out to inspect our lunar based autonomous fabrication facilities. for serious, the moon’s spaceport has got to be the funniest place in the solar system. i don’t how they find the people they have working there, i guess some of it comes with having to find people that want to work full-time on the moon, but these folks are up there with the best of the best of the neo-idiots and retardoids. ifthey were ever able to collect and reconstitute the drool dripping out of the mouths of these guys, you could put a goddamn waterfall grotto in every freaking shelterpod in the effing lunar settlement. letus all thank the universal sandwich. pass the mayo. the autono-fabs were running smoothly, production is up, demand is up, we are up. up. up. again, thank the sandwich. pass the mustard. the adminstrativetechnician, a pretty but very, very serious lady named brick, after showing me the facilities and the what-nots, took me out for a nice picnic lunch on the surface. soy tubes, coleslaw, lunar brew, craters, and the thick black of the cosmos. if i wasn’t such a self-absorbed, anti-social recovering cube addict with emotional down-syndrome i would have played it to the romantic hilt. in our short time together it became somewhat evident and therefore i am not less than very certain that brick is lonely. who’s to blame her? no one wants to knock boots with a drooling goofus in coveralls. when i get home i am going to give her a paid holiday excursion to earth. of course, i won’t make myself available to her during that time. i am still deathly irritated by intimacy and a billion other things. and shels was the only woman for me. i refuse to thank the sandwich for that. cancel my order.
felt it coming. knew i was in too good a mood lately for the universe to let it stick. goddamn kneejerks went off on the happy jack colonies settled out on the abandoned deep water oil platforms floating around out in the middle of the black mess they try and call the oceans. turns out the dung-brains that call themselves in charge of society for some reason or another got put off by the hip little do-it-yerselfers living tax-free in the big salt and cess. and doing what kneejerks do best, went and jerked their big-ass ol’ knees right into their a-hole ass-mouths. man it makes for a good reason to puke. just because a bunch of folks get together and figure out a smarter and better and most likely funner way to exist, a bunch of flabby, under-sexed, triple-chinned, sandwich-fearing, crap-wiping, fear-screaming, money-loving, love-hating, no-goodamn-gooders decide that these are the folks that need to be decided about. i ask you this, who gets to decide about the goddamn kneejerks? me? you? feces. it. is. that. true. and i swear to the most toppinged footlong submarine of a sandwich that if a-steve or a-todd or any other person, thing or what the eff doesn’t come in here anytime in the near soon, then i am going to actually probably do something. i mean it. i am relaxed and inpsired and lonely and that is a powerful combination where i am concerned. i mean they are all big talking about clearing these socalled sub-societal miscreant no-goodinghams and how more than likely they will be forced to send in the firepower. why? they don’t ever really say. probably some closet sexual kneejerk is jealous of these overly out-closeted happy jacks and well, apparently that can’t stand. no send in the freaking troops. but it is interesting to note that said troops get sent in on a.i. transpo-cruisers which all run on a1 proprietary tech. so. what to do? play hard? write a letter? or throw the shit into the freaking eff. i have buttons i can push. the question is, which button?
dial it up
what is the number
now it is ringing
the dial tone
through the tube
to a cryptical place
voicemail’s of mystery
punch in the zone code
what is the number
the signal is busy
to a mystical place
stay on the line
while the brain connects you
enter the digits
calling inside you
hi, can i order a pizza?
had the unit blasting some weird and funky oldtimeyjams today. something about this retro sound just makes me feel alright. and the new unit ultra-sound sounds a-okay to me. man, can you pump these suckers up loud. wow. a–steve is showing off his mad dance abilities and it’s got me giggling like a bag of glee filled babies. a–steve is pretty intuitive when it comes to art apparently, even though i can’t see him actually feeling it on any sort of emotional level he does draw some quite savvy logical conclusions about its form and function. in an electrified context, i guess. he also has some pretty freaking good dance moves in his motorskillset. admittedly, that was me. my idea. i always had the mandate that a1robots must be dancebots at heart, even the less glamorous ones like garbagebots or tugbots or whatnotbots. sort of like giving them the closest thing i could think of to a soul. gotta have the passion for the dance. and a beverage dispensor. gotta have juice. a–steve, sadly enough, does not have a juice dispensor. i just didn’t think it would be dignified to have an artificial best man friend that you could suck grape juice out of. ofcourse, now that i’m looking back on it like this it seems that it was a dumb idea not to have the juice dispensor installed. and he wouldn’t give a crap. he’sa machine. all this talk about juice has made me thirsty. where’s a juicebot when you need one?
Ding-Dong Wakanabe shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The cheap moulded-plastic was doing a poor job holding his tremendous girth and the last hour had not been a pleasant one. He pushed the last, large piece of his maxi-size ultro-choco bar into his mouth and stared out through the windshield. The scene at the dilapidated housing unit across the street was the same as it had been for the last two and a half hours: pure nothing doing. He hated surveillance. Boredom made him anxious, and tedium…well, tedium was worse. Especially since the entertainment system in his crappy Pakov get/go had gone and broke, and its seats were a literal pain in the ass, and his Unit had fallen in to the river, and he was still hungry, and–-He checked his thoughts. No complaints, he told himself, that is neg-thought. And neg-thought begets neg-behaves. And neg-behaves beget neg-self. And neg-self begets being a loser. And he was not a loser. At least according to the My Special Helper virtua-psychiatrist on his Unit, he wasn’t. But now his Special Helper was all up and gone down into the river and the electric headshrinker on his loaner seemed very unsympathetic and overly analytical.
If only he hadn’t tried to get the whole extra-super-saucy-soy tube into his mouth at once he wouldn’t have lost his grip on his Unit, sending it to its watery demise. It was just another sad setback in a life that seemed to be already sadly set back. With his detective business floundering, the loss of his Unit meant that until it was replaced, his piece of crud get/go would continue to exist in its same capacity, his dirty jeans would continue to exist in their same capacity, and he would continue to exist in this same capacity.
The loss of his Unit really put a low gravy on his already low character. It was a little rich.
A stinky “Ugh.” escaped his fat face. He picked up his loaner Unit from the passenger seat and studied it. It was worse than he was.
Yup, “Ugh.” Even though it adhered to the legally required functionality it just looked so nobody. Which didn’t help. He looked up at the large, weather-beaten billboard hanging on the side of a nearby building: You can’t spell Unity without Unit.
Ha, he thought, united in what?
The looks on the faces of the people around him when he had used the loaner to pay for lunch at the U-Cheese U-Dog cart had seemed pretty united in their apparent disgust with him. He knew he was never going to be Ding-Dong Charisma PhD regardless of his Unit, but his old one was one of his few positives and as such had lent him a sort of comfort. He had jazzed it up quite nicely, had worked real hard all by himself.
He sighed himself back to the task at hand, re-fixing his gaze back on the domicile across the street. Lamenting the facts wouldn’t change them.
Just concentrate on work, he thought, if he could lock this case it would be a big, big step in the right direction. Deeana Ho was big time. Big money. Big society. Big time. Getting the job done for her would definitely help everything, open doors. Ho was huge. Her late husband was the late, great Lorenzo Ho, who with his two brothers had started the HoHoHo Candy Cane Company. Twenty years later it was the 3Ho Confection and Manufacturing Concern, a trillion dollar corporation. Deeana had taken her husbands place on the board when he had died and had taken the corporation to new heights. Unfortunately, like all great families they had a black sheep in their flock. In this case it was their only son, Ricky. And he was why Ding-Dong was sitting in his crappy get/go in a crappy part of town secretly watching a crappy domicile.
A sleek, modern ultra-bike pulled up in front of the house. It was a stark contrast to the worn-down, long-forgotten neighbourhood surrounding it. Ding-Dong sat up in his seat. Ricky Ho. The lanky, well-dressed young man getting off the expensive machine, sauntering up to the entrance of the domicile, keying something into his lean, beautiful Unit, and the door opening before him. He entered. Ding-Dong waited, then got out of his get/go. The street was utterly deserted, and he slobbed across to Ricky’s ultra-bike. Let out a low whistle. It was a thing of true beauty, from one of those low-orbital, high-end fabricators. Untouched by gravity, its curves were perfect. It probably cost as much as the entire street it was sitting on, thought Ding-Dong. He took the nano-tracker from his pocket, powered it up, and checked its signal output on his Unit. Loud and clear. He slyly placed the tiny device into a discreet spot on the bike.
Well, he thought, you’ll be able to keep tabs on your little boy now, Missus Ho. Not that it’ll matter.
Ding-Dong knew from his surveillance that Ricky was pretty close to lost. Because Ricky was addicted to cubes. He’d been sticking his head into boxes full of weird lightning for a while. Putting them on heavy and steady. Heavy and steady enough for Ding-Dong to know the kid was microns from the edge.
The cubes. Clear neo-plex boxes charged with the radiation from the mysterious energy spheres that had been discovered in deep space. One of the many queer properties of the spheres was that if one contained its radiation –or so-called weird lightning– in a simple neo-plex cube and put it over ones head, the energies inside powerfreaked the mind. Supposedly good fun, but with strange side effects. Because intense exposure to weird lightning lineated thoughts. It took all the senses, perceptions, and qprocesses of the mind and broke them down, reduced them to a bizarre base: lines. The universe of the cubed became de-dimensioned, becoming purely linear.
And Ricky Ho was pretty freaking linear.
His mom was using her money and influence to try and get him out and save him before the government Anti-Cube Divisions did. The penal-delineating centres did not discriminate and regardless of rank or social standing, once you were in, you were in.
Until they let you out.
So Missus Ho had hired Ding-Dong to bring her son home before the ACD picked him up, which was inevitable, seeing his state of cube abuse. A cubed haunt like the one Ding-Dong was standing before was a heavy ACD magnet.
Very heavy, very magnetic.
They never lasted long, the ACD made sure of that, and this worried Ding-Dong big time. If he let the ACD pull in Ricky, Missus Ho’d get someone to kick his stomach in. She hadn’t hired him to let Ricky get zapped by the fed-authority.
This case was his pump ticket. If Ricky went down Ding-Dong wouldn’t be that far behind. If he saved Ricky Ho, though, it could be excellent. He got excited at the word, excellent. It made him almost wish to burst in and grab Ricky, pick him up and throw him over his shoulder, take him home, be a hero. He took a step. And stopped. Was it fear? Common sense? Something? He took another step. And stopped. Two steps forward–nice start.
Ding-Dong tapped the side of his skull, “What am I doing?” There was no reply.
He shuddered, put a hand into his pants pocket, pulling out an OhSoGood taste treat. Tearing open the snack, he rammed it into his mouth. Its flavoured core massaged his tongue, his throat, his gonads. He glanced at the wrapper. Curiously enough it was a 3Ho product.
A sign, he thought, the snack treat tells me to. He swallowed the remaining gob of goodness.
Slowly, as he stood stupid, a vibration from deep within, beyond the folds of fat, muscle, bone, and organs, began to massage his psyche. It was subtle, profound, and it moved him. He stepped to the door. No knob or handle, and sturdier than it was meant to look. In fact the whole domicile was in better condition than at first glance, cleverly disguised beneath intricately detailed dilapidating camouflage.
Curious, he thought.
He keyed his Unit, scanning for recent signals. Outside the food bands and carnival networks, showing the usual volumes, there wasn’t much happening. Expanding the scan, a poorly scrambled transmission burst stuck way out on the outskirts of the trans-commway looked promising.
Ricky needs badly, he thought, wouldn’t even hide his doorknock. Copying it into his Unit, de-scrambling, loading it into his doorknocker.
Whir. Click. The door opened. No one. Ding-Dong poked his head through the door. It opened into a long, bare white hallway. A door at the end of the hall was the only other feature in the passage.
He took a deep breath.
Detective Bigtime, he told himself and entered.
Three strides in–he was stopped short by an invisible barrier. A clear, plastic wall barred his way. Turning back to the door, another clear wall came down, shutting him off from his exit. Two more walls came down, completing his cage.
He was nervous.
“We don’t know you,” said the voice out of nowhere.
Then his clear, plastic cell fell through the floor.
He fell into darkness. Scared. He hated the dark, the unknown, and everything else about his current situation. He felt light as he fell for what seemed like a good distance before his weight returned and he was standing as still as his transparent prison. It was black. He stood stupid. Breathing heavily, wanting to scream. A tickle slid up and down his spine, he shivered. He tried to move his feet. They wouldn’t. His back seemed to flow upwards as his legs stretched down, beyond the floor. Ding-Dong swallowed hard, his throat went streaking down after his feet, his mouth chasing his shoulders upward. A sizzling hum warmed the air around him, his ears and eyes reaching out to catch the rest of his head. His hands went deep down his sides in search of his toes. The darkness disappeared, light ceased to matter.
He was stretched before and beyond anything and everything. His being, each and every part of it reduced to a single point, lined up side by side, back to front, his bad bits, virtues, other things and pieces, mingled, stretched, some so close, others so far away.
It was terror, joy, sadness, and glee.
He shot through vast, endless fields that were all other universes, crossing other lines, other beings. Wherever they touched he would share their points, and they his.
This was deep, deep infinity.
It was his.
It was everyone’s.
In an instant and forever.
Nothing. He tried to shout, proclaim the glory, the mystery solved–
He said, “sleek.”
Ding-Dong the line shimmered up and down its entire length as it settled across the fabric of the cosmos.
They pried open the trap doors in the floor of the front hallway, peering down into the darkness. The large, uniformed man with the thick, gold stripes on his sleeves ordered in a winch. They hauled up the giant, man-sized cube from the sub-basement. The fat man they found inside did not respond to standard sphere-radiation emergency recovery treatment and was taken to a government penal-hospital for observation, before he could be sent to a de-lineating facility. Even then, his prognosis was not good. The doctors at the hospital had never seen such an overdose of weird lightning, doubting the fat man would ever come out of his linear psychosis.
He was gone.
Ding-Dong stretched across the universe, all his bits and pieces in a long, thin symphony of everything that coursed over his infinite length. A most glorious smile like a burst of beautiful, electric fire coursed from his end to his end. He was. Oh, how he was.