If, at this point, you continue to read further you do so at your own risk...below is a short story; if you chose to progress you will discover that I may have won awards, been commended for my journalism, and even on occassion ghost-written heavy political stuff, but leave me alone with Uncle Jack and cousin Carly then the result is short stories...in this case a slightly daft one..let me know how daft you think it is!
Four years of fighting, and no sign of victory.
Another year and he could retire to teach at what was left of the Academy. Four years and only two days of respite per month. Just 96 days of relief. In his hands he played with the headset. Such a relic. They were his only real respite, a window to a past gone for more than 900 years. A relic that had been left from his long-dead relative, passed through generation after generation, with none knowing what the silver discs contained.
Each month he had sat, connected to the dumb terminal, researching, reading what ‘ware he would let into his mind, always careful that no neural bombs had been left by the ‘bots.
Finally, two months ago he had broken the code, assembled a converter and copied the files to his ‘ware. Almost 2,000 files lay within, each labelled with obscure titles, and even more obscure names and organisations. It was another month before he dared to open one, fearful that the ancient codes would have decayed and corrupt his neural interfaces. When he finally opened them he was shocked for the first time since joining up in the ‘ware marines. He expected codes, ‘ware, even text downloaded via the ancient headset. Instead, three brief lines from someone whose name had been lost in the centuries passing, explaining the concept of music.
Music, a small word. A word that he had to look up in the library ‘ware. It was a word and a definition that baffled him, until the first chords blasted through the headset. He had laughed in shock.
Now it was his only solace. He had to face up to probable defeat. Commander of the Software Division of the United Earth Space Marines, and commander of a division that was slowly, but surely being defeated by the ‘bots. There had been some glimmer of hope this past three weeks, but until he could marshal a counter-attack…
“Sir, the divisional reports are ready to be uploaded,” said Samuels, his Exec Officer, who bustled into the room, still smelling of the stimulant he tolerated, but frowned upon; especially it’s use among his Official Cadre officers and ‘ware specialists. It might keep them awake and alert for a few extra minutes in death space, but it made them rash and, at times too impulsive against the ‘bots.
“Okay Samuels, thanks. You had any downtime?”
The man had been a competent marine when programming, but lacked the inherent strength of visualisation while in 'ware time. Where most marines visualised rich tapestries of sound, vision, smell and touch, Samuels preferred the quiet visualisations of boardrooms. It matched his straight bearing, impeccable uniform and angular face. Topped by the neatly trimmed grey hair he looked less like a marine and more like a member of the administrative cadre. He was in total contrast to the dishevelled demeanour of his commander.
“Yes, sir and I’m due relax trance tomorrow.”
Relax trance. What a stupid word combination. It was nothing to do with relaxing. The trance was designed to age his men and women. Their fights with the ‘bots were in a world where time was measured in a different framework compared to the rest of the human population. His four years in the wars had seen normal time fly by in a blur of more than 50 years, his body ageing slowed by the perverse nature of the quantum world the ‘bots occupied. The ageing was necessary, because without it the brain systems would overtake the neural wetware that bridged complex brain areas; a pathway of tiny interfaces measured in diameters of electrons and neutrons. The interfaces crossed posterior parietal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, effectively linking the motion-processing areas of visual pathways and body-mapping areas.
The sense of space constructed by this cortex was linked to the cingulated cortex, using its focus and crossroads between planning and emotional impulses in the brain to translate higher functions and boost attention. The link enabled the visualisation of colours, environment and other interpreted senses from the battlefield, using the impression of senses to do battle in the quantum world where the bridges of intervention changed every aspect of the virtual battlefield.
Just another year. Even he, commander of the ‘ware marines, was limited to five years’ service – almost 70 years in real time. Any longer and the risk of akinetic mutism from damage to the anterior cingulate cortex increased exponentially. He’d seen too many friends, too many of his marines struck down with q-syndrome, as the soldiers had dubbed it. A weird zombie-like state first clearly understood and then diagnosed correctly almost 1,000 years ago. It had been known about for years before that, but the damage they incurred in the battle with the ‘bots was irreversible. Zombies with full consciousness, but no motivation, no urge to move, to do anything, not even speak. All who suffered were discarded from the service. The lucky few were given terminal neural interface connections by their relatives. It was a merciful death.
“Think too long on this shit and you’ll never hook up again Jonas,” he thought, suddenly deciding that it was time for work. The division was so depleted of resources even the commander was forced to enjoin the battles.
He donned the headset first, loading up another song, from what he presumed was a 20th Century religious movement, Blue Oyster Cult. Veteran of the Psychic Wars.
“How fucking appropriate!”
Earth colonies had been gradually, slowly and cautiously exploring their distant corner of their galaxy for more than two centuries since they first mastered the art of sending drones to terraform uninhabited planets and then leapfrogging them with the sub-light driven ships, delivering colonists desperate to escape the dying throes of Earth.
Within 150 years more than 500 planets had been colonised, and then the first contact with the ‘bots came, bringing what seemed to be the beginning of the end. The ‘bots had appeared as physical ships to the first colony that they contacted. A ship set on course to colonise in their own unique way by a civilisation many millennia ago. There was no explanation offered by the ‘bots; no physical contact, simply the gradual neural dominance and extinction of the host via attacks based on a weird combination of imagined space and quantum physics. Their mission appeared to be simply to eradicate all biological codec that did not conform to their DNA and RNA sequencing programmes. At a rough estimate less than 20 per cent fitted their approved sequence.
Thankfully more than half of that fortunate few of the original colony decided that they owed it to the rest of humanity to warn them of the insidious invasion and slaughter that it precipitated.
Now there were less than 50 colonies, plus Earth system resisting, and more than 35 billion ‘defective’ DNA sequences eradicated. Samuels mused on the war. He’d been welcomed by the ‘Bots and carefully groomed in q-space to work on their behalf with the only force still resistingassimilation, the ‘ware marines. He thought sometimes of the people he’d helped kill through passing on ‘ware specs. He thought of their deaths. Sometimes he cried. Then, as he linked up with the willing survivors he felt the community of brain linkages that joined humanity with the long distant creators of the ‘bots – one huge galactic wide net of linked individuals and colony ‘bots. An efficient process, ordered and quiet.
To help him in his position as an infiltrator the ‘bots downloaded specialist ‘ware to his hippocampus. The convergence of neurons and their snapshot imagery of the rest of his brain activity was a perfect base for capturing and re-imaging neural activity to make Jonas and all his associated colleagues in the Human Defence Forces think of Samuels as nothing more than a dull but loyal EO.
Unfortunately the ‘ware managed to create chaos within a small section of the cerebellum that controlled sweat glands, leaving him with the whiff of coffee, long-outlawed in its concentrated form in the colonies.
Whatever organisation had been called Black Sabbath soothed Jonas with their sweeping aggressive music as he coursed through the battlefield, fending off ‘bot attacks, launching counter-attacks through neural viruses. The q-fields were adapted according to each marines’ own personal visual interpretation. His choice was an ancient game, played by his ancestors through clumsy visual interfaces. They had been called role-playing games and first-person shooters. The names were appropriate to what was his job. Cutting through swathes of code, using every type of programming language ever invented by humanity to sabotage the ‘bots manipulation of quantum fields. The very processes humanity had used to speed its computing capabilities to colonise their corner of the galaxy had been turned against them. Only the speed, flexibility and adaptability of the human brain could now provide a counter.
Black Label Society switched to Kiss, before Metallica took over...
For the first time in months they were making real progress. He switched to the separate ‘ware controlling his divisional deployments, marshalling a counter-thrust in three separate sectors.
The Offspring played on, followed by Alice Cooper focussing his mind...
“Sector four, press forward, div. two, they’ll drive into that noose you’ve got forming. Lock those codes in there. When they try to break through in binary, lock ‘em down and release neural bombs.” he projected to his divisional commanders, before switching back to his own field of combat.
Led Zeppelin, System of a Down and then Nine Inch Nails...
“I don’t know why he won’t just die,” Samuels projected to the ‘Bots. His own visualisation was of a boardroom, appropriate for an Executive Officer.
“I’ve released every neural pathogen, every neural bomb and dozens of viruses. He seems to have a way of combating each and every one. And some of the Marines seem to have developed that same ability.”
The ‘Bots, shed of the crude machinery that most of humanity believed them to be, appeared as fields of shimmering material in q-space. Their every move and his every observation changing the matter and the visualisation.
“What is music?” one asked.
“I don’t know.”
It seems to be the virus they are using,” the ‘Bot replied. “It is like a wall, which we cannot penetrate, and we cannot sequence quick enough when they have it activated to fight them off. It is not appearing on any of the pathways we map of the Marines ‘ware, nor their physical neural activity.”
“What is an Ozzy?” another asked.
I don’t know.”
“What is a Motorhead?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is a Ramone?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is an AC/DC??
“I don’t know.”
The boardroom shuddered.
"The Marines have breeched all our secure neural sites.”
“What, you told me those were the hubs to…”
“There’s something coming along…”
“You told me you couldn’t lose…”
“Samuels, what is headbanging?”
His boardroom exploded, the visualisation cut apart by seeming arcs of fire and explosions. Walking through the debris was Jonas. The image was one of a man 20 years Jonas’ junior, carrying an ancient projectile weapon and laughing. As he fired the weapon the quantum fields slithered and rolled, the programming languages cutting the ‘Bots internal integrity down to nothingness. Samuels knew he was seeing Jonas’ visualisations. And if he could see them, quantum law dictated that both he and the visualisation could be altered by that observation. He had to think fast, alter the vision before Jonas…
“Hey Samuels!” Jonas called out at him. The tired Commander was laughing. His hair seemed longer and he was dressed in ancient combat fatigues.
“Hanging out with the our low-life robotic quantum motherfuckin’ friends. It’s fuckin’ crazy man, we’re getting them beat.” He seemed drunk or high to Samuels.
“It’s not how they think it goes any more. We’re winning and we won’t live as slaves to these small quantum fuckers. If only they’d learn how to love us, and forget to hate us. Maybe it’s not too late for them. Will your mental wounds heal before I kill you.
“No guess not, all aboard the Crazy Train - you’re gonna die traitor.”
After the loud blast of the projectile weapon cutting across quantum space, Samuels heard a maniacal laugh and someone screaming, “All Aboard’. Samuels’ treachery died along with him.