that escalated quickly
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: Sunshine, Lollipops and Diabetes
Originally posted on MSPA
James Hyphenated-Surname sat behind his desk, watching the five gun-barrels that faced him from different angles.
“I take it you’re not pets sort of people are you all, then?”
<font color="#655575">“No one gave you permission to talk.”
The voice from the squad leader was of the sort that gave people chills, and so James obediently had chills. That, however, was as far as it got.
“I built this channel
from the ground
up, you know. I made
it what it is now
. Even when transmissions stopped
we still broadcast
. Even when we couldn’t find any more pets
, or more pet owners
, we just made
more!” A cold anger was creeping into his voice now, displacing the jollity it often held... but underneath was the impression of winding, slowly coiling spring but that way madness lay
“A gene sequence here
, a nucleotide there
– and then everyone else died
of that virus
we made, but did that stop me
? Hell no, sirs
, I just bred
more people! Sure they weren’t more
than meat puppets
, but the broadcast
!” In this mad world of whirling words the channels were the only life and those who lived within; all had a person a purpose, and like the channels themselves did not take well to contravention of their rules and bases
was what counted
, you imbeciles
, I made everything
in this channel
and you’re just going to barge
in and seize
it all over, what?!
” The shovel-sized hands made ham-sized fists, and shattered the desk’s mahogany veneer.
James’ eyes showed only static.
” He roared, and exploded in a cloud of static that wrapped its spidery tentacles about the world and crushed it into scrap, that met the wave of static coming in and merged as the channel's last representative died...
Squad One, report.
Squad One, report.
No response from Squad One. Squad One assumed terminated. Squad Two?
"Copyright Central, this is Squad Two. Instructions?"
Squad One assumed terminated. Investigate. Take caution.
Squad Two, report.
"Copyright Central, this is Squad Two. Squad One's previous location no longer detectable. Likely nonexistent. Instructions?"
None. Reassignment and stand by. Squad Two: You are now Squad One.
Change was not happy. Gold damn it, look at these walls! They didn't spare any expense there, did they? No, premium-grade steel with - get this, Nizzo - platinum plating, so we couldn’t buy our way out even if we wanted to! And look at this lock - the barrel of the tank prodded the complex-looking lock attached to the door - it probably cost more than the walls...
<font color="#099999">Nizzo, on the other hand, really couldn't relate to talk of expenses. The only thoughts he had were of uneasiness at being constrained within this-one-of-changing-shape, and even that was mitigated by the intrigue of the new place. There were some minds, though not many, scattered about the small world – and he could feel that it was small, somehow, instead of simply having a boundary defined by his senses, it had a distinct end to the world…
But if he listened further, the edge of the world seemed to be changing, pulsing, buzzing at a vibration that permeated the world, and Nizzo realized that he wasn’t feeling an absence in minds beyond the veil, but seeing the actual boundary through its own vibration, transmitted from another place.
They were concepts that only barely fit in his mind, but he grasped them somehow – outside that boundary, like the difference between land and sea, was another world.
The only real thing, Nizzo, is value.
The Transaction noted with malicious satisfaction as the confusion in Nizzo’s mind multiplied at yet another new impression. Our prime priority at the moment is to assess this value.
After the uncharacteristic venting, the Transaction was once more all business. We must take charge of the situation, tabulate and consolidate our assets. Number one: We have myself. Specifically, this purchase that I am currently operating…
For now giving up the challenge of deciphering this-one-of-changing-shape, Nizzo just leaned back and let the golden voice wash over him. Briefly, he reached for the impression he had glimpsed over the edge of the world, but it was gone.
Until recently, the News Channel had been a simple metropolitan city, divided in between the Lefts and the Rights. Verbal warfare would populate in the airwaves, physical warfare would propagate in the streets, civil unrest and corruption at an all-time high and consumer satisfaction at an all-time low. Just the way it was supposed to be.
But now, the world had changed.
For some reason, the monopolies and trusts simply weren’t making the colossal profits they used to. The advertising executives could have sworn that the exorbitant prices and high taxes they charged were the same as ever, yet the people seemed to pay less – much less – and were still getting away with it! The shop managers swore that they were charging exactly what they were told the products were worth, and there were a dozen pointless family liquidations before it was ascertained that they were telling, honestly, what they believed was the truth.
And then there was the matter of the new construction project in the center of the city, which was going up alarmingly fast. From the vantage point of the skyscrapers surrounding it, it looked like the crossbreed of a torus and an elongated cylinder, about the height of an apartment tenement. It was, in effect, the shape of a jet engine filled at the bottom with assorted machineries, but otherwise sans turbines, sans features, the property sans accessories save a hastily erected cabin by the side fence.
Aaron sat in the small cabin, sipping a glass of water. Around him, the work bustled. Rapidly, the engine was being forced into effect, as if its form had been there all along and all anyone had to do was stick pieces into the puzzle. In fact, its arcane shape was nearly completed.
The deep cough of the head foreman shook him from his thoughts. “Sir, the supplier is here again. He wants to discuss…the price of the steel we requisitioned.”
Aaron sighed. “I thought I told you that concerning these matters, I don’t exist?”
“He was going to barge straight in here, sir. Cause all sorts of trouble. I…I’m indebted to you, I stopped him but he wouldn’t go away…” The foreman drew a grubby handkerchief from his overall pocket and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I’ve got him at the entrance if you want to talk to him.”
“No.” The aurumancer pushed back his simple chair from his simple desk, and adjusted his still-ragged robe. “Invite him in.”
<font color="#CDAD00">Change fretted. The problem remains, he muttered for the umpteenth time, is that I lack manipulatory appendages, and this tank is pathetically fragile. The transaction drove in a half-circle and twisted its turret in a vain attempt to whack the lock, which it couldn’t reach. But I worry more about Aaron. We had a great many adventures together, we did…well, most of them were conning food and clearing out of town, but in any case he has not been without me for the better part of a year. And there are things I have never expressly forbidden him to do.
<font color="#099999">Confusing impressions flitted across Nizzo’s consciousness as the Transaction muttered on. A undeserved-leader, the sense of many-attuned-to-one, the feeling of captivity…
Slaves. Indebted servants. A dangerous, profitable and infinitely tempting path to tread…at least without guidance.
“What’s the meaning of this construction anyway?! Why does he want this much steel? What are these *beep* blueprints?!” The steel supplyman, who existed by dint of being interviewed once concerning OSHA violations, had a strangely one-dimensional appearance, as if only one side of him was being broadcast.
“Please, sir – don’t worry yourself.” Aaron stepped forward and shook the supplyman’s slightly faded hand. “I’m in charge of this operation, and I’ll be glad to show you around – not to mention bargain a fair price for your steel.” He felt his mind slip into that little ready mode, silver tongue mentally unrolling the red carpet. “I understand that you’re dissatisfied with the amount you’re being paid for this steel?”
“*beep* yes! You pay me this, how am I going to feed my family? Both NewsWorthy and MediaPolitics have raised their prices in all the Bymor-Marts! I mean, sure, the steel didn’t cost all that much to produce, but I *beep*ing gotta pay people off!”
“I understand, mister…”
“Mister A. Localsteelfactoryowner, not at your service until I get *beep*ing paid proper!”
Aaron sighed. “I’ll have my staff review the payment plan. That might take some time, though not long. While we’re waiting, would you like to see what we’re building?”
As sure as Wall Street opens, he will come. But I worry about the measures he may take to do so.
A motorized scaffold brought them up high along the structure, to the circular rim twenty stories up. Safety rails ringed both edges, with a stairway curving around the inside of the engine. They walked down into the cylinder, Aaron pointing out the esoteric machineries far below, and stepped out into a narrow walkway that projected across the diameter of the structure, supported by an iridescent blue column.
“That, Mr. Localsteelfactoryowner, is the central control panel for the engine.”
The supplyman, rendered speechless by the operation’s scale, here found his voice: “Wait – the ‘engine’? All along you’ve been saying ‘the building’ and ‘the project’ – is this thing supposed to drive something? What kinda *beep* could you possibly be driving with this?!”
Aaron turned, and looked right into the man’s eyes. “The city. The entire world. The channel
Because, you see, Libertarian mages operate on the power of mind. A mind is an indentation on the mind-plane, a separate plane of consciousness and existence. Where a properly deep mind intersects with the matter-plane, where we live – that is what the uninformed call magic. The Transaction simply mulled, driving in pointless circles. But there is a limit to the advancement of a human mind, and the Univercities breached that limit long ago, with a discovery of a process that could temporarily augment a mage’s power.
<font color="#099999">Though Nizzo failed to grasp anything aside from a vague feeling of apprehension, he sensed that this-one-of-changing-shape wanted some response, an excuse to continue the blather. So, politely, he gave the impression of unknown-location, of crowded-thought and just plain confusion.
Whereupon Change returned the impression of what was universally understood by all sentients as palm-strikes-own-face (even the ones without palms, and the ones that had palms for faces, though the race of sentient palm trees often got it confused).
Aaron ignored the supplyman’s befuddled look, and gestured at the walls of the cylinder, towering above and below them. “It’s finished – mostly. Your contribution here, Mr. Localsteelfactoryowner, is in those stabilization spires underneath us.” He pointed at a set of three wicked-looking steel lances protruding from the chasm of machinery below, each the width of a man and tapering to a point just short of the central pillar. “They’re used as harmonic resonators to create and control a containment field for the gravity drill that we’re standing on. Gravity distorts space distorts time, forcing Minkowski spaces to rotate and overlap itself at the edges – your space is toroidal, by the way, finite and unbounded. I like it – reminds me of home, really, even though I’ve been here less than a week.” For a second, Aaron’s grey eyes betrayed a steely glint. Or was it silver? “But yet, we’ve all got to make sacrifices.”
The supplyman opened his mouth, but Aaron waved a hand to stop him. “What were you going to say? ‘You’ll never get away with this?’ The fact is, this entire channel is an abstraction. You’re nothing, the authorities you’d report me to are nothing, everyone here is here because two news channels once staged a political battle and this is everybody that took part.”
A. Localsteelfactoryowner closed his mouth.
“The engine maintains its own internal time – my time, the time you’ve got here is fast with respect to mine, since news travels fast – so the whole system is essentially a clock. An engine clock. It seeks out the most similar time sync that matches mine, and drags the channel towards that. Something like towing barges, ending in a car crash of epic proportions.” The aurumancer nonchalantly, yet menacingly, leaned against the circular railing. “The only problem is that I’m not deep enough, I can’t power this.”
Despite himself, his determination to stop enabling this maniac, his repeated entreatments for his legs to react and get him the hell out of here, the supplyman stood his ground and spoke again. “You?! You’re going to power this?!”
“With a little help, yes.” The aurumancer looked into Mister A. Localsteelfactoryowner’s eyes for the last time, and this time the steel and silver were unmistakable. “Your life isn’t worth very much, is it?”
They discovered that on the whole, disregarding population increases, mind on the mind-plane was conserved as is matter on the matter-plane. Therefore, if one could deduct a mind from the plane…
Change stopped, so suddenly that the sudden vacuum seemed to ring like the aftermath of a tolling bell. It was you. Before we were taken. Everything was going quiet. Everyone was keeling over, like a chapter 11… It was you. You can take minds.
Like a lightbulb suddenly going on, the conversation returned to comprehensibility, with this-one-of-changing-shape broadcasting impressions of feeding, memories of the feast he’d had before, and from there descending rapidly into disaster. Black thoughts, hate-filled thoughts, repugnant thoughts spilled through that golden channel, feeding-on-ownkind, killing-ownkind, he tried to communicate, to explain, but the wave of hatred and fear and anger and betrayed-trust and cheating-investor and petty-thievery and bank-fraud and a thousand other foreign concepts that linked to this-one-of-changing-shape-
The tank shuddered, as if trying to shake itself apart. I was right. You are more dangerous than you look! You-
“This is MediaPolitics News live at the scene of the new Abstract Tower, Valerie Ellis reporting.”
<font color="#000099">“NewsWorthy News Flash! Adam Brate, live, at the site of the Abstract Tower, the newest addition to the city’s central business district!”
“According to witness accounts, the Abstract Tower was completed today in the record time of six days since the commencement of construction, with all workers relieved and astounded at the feat they’ve managed.”</font>
“That’s right, the manpower we employed was in-fucking-credible-”
“We’re live, please don’t curse at the camera.”
“Sorry, Adam – I mean, look at that beauty! We raised that thing in six days, Adam – now all we need to do is go into planet engineering, we’ll be up against God himself, doncha think? Sorry.”
“On a different topic, do you have any details about the Abstract Tower’s function?”
“Glad our nondisclosure agreements are finished now, aren’t ya?”
“Mr. Toss, I understand that you’re assistant foreman on the Abstract Tower project?”
“That’s correct, Ms. Ellis, I am. Please, call me Quinn.”
“Can you tell us anything about the Abstract Tower?”
“It isn’t a residential complex, nor an office one. It is more of a…power plant or research facility than anything, if I were to give my guess.”
“Well, I’m only an engineer, you understand. The theory’s a little…”
“Yes, of course. I can’t help but notice your arm’s missing. A workplace accident?”
“Oh no, that’s a long story. Perhaps another time. In any case, I’ve got to get out of here.”
“All right. We won’t keep you. Drop by MediaPolitics Central sometime, though – there might be something in that arm story!”
“And good luck to you too, Ms. Ellis.”
Mr. A. Localsteelfactoryowner looked curiously through graying vision at the world he saw around him. His stomach hurt, and everywhere around him machines were coming alive with boops
and little, disquieting huuuMMMMMMMMMMMs
. A trickle of red crept its way across the hollows of his face, which flickered, slightly
but no dice – a horrific workplace accident was newsworthy if anything, and it was mundanity that was subversion of the status quo in news – and the blood flowed and flowed and flowed across lolling, sad eyes, thick lips and into unbreathing nose, as the supplyman watched his lifeblood drain away, watched the blood lick its way slowly down the steel spire he built and sold and now died, impaled, at its spike and he really couldn’t care he couldn’t seem to care, since his life was so practically worthless
that he’d give it up to help Mr. Abstract, wouldn’t he?
drip, drip, drip, over and into parted lips, matting hair, dripdropping deep into the machinery below, far below. Above, Mr. Abstract was yelling, doing something arcane, kickstarting an engine, the supplyman didn’t couldn’t care couldn’t care, since everything was going black
“Adam Brate here! For NewsWorthy Network – with an explosive report! Oh! The tower, the…”
“This is Dave Cloud, I’m the cameraman – Val, Val she…as you can see, the Abstract Tower is…it’s…something is horribly wrong! The tower’s…rising? Stretching upwards? It’s being…there, not there at the same time, it’s…”
“We’ve got to get closer! We’ve got to get a better look at this! Kris! Dale, d-don’t you dare! Come back, both of you! At least give me the camera, Kris!!”
“The Tower…the ground around the tower’s gone…Val, she was on the edge of the property, there’s just…space. Not star space, outer space, there’s just…space. This wind! Everything’s being sucked out, space itself is stretching, everything smells like-
“Holy-…was that the MediaPolitics camera? Are our viewers seeing this?! Ohhhh gaaaahhh – Are you getting this, headquarters? This is Adam Brate, at the edge of the universe, there’s suction something frightful, but I’ve got a firm grip on this lamppost – I’ve got…the footage…we-”
A burst of noise, obliterating the audio. It is accompanied by a starburst’s worth of distortion on the picture.
“…losing grip…this is Adam Brate, signing off – and arrrrrrrrggghhhh our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy Name thy Kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who have transgressed against us lead us not into temptation but deliver us from -”
The camera breaks free and picture cuts out.
“My God, it’s full of stars!”
<font color="#FFFFFF">Then all there is static.
Aaron was driving. It was exhiliarating as the engine roared, its sound taking on cellular-automatic life of its own, as space itself roared past his face down into the ground below. The channel juddered, lurched, and moved, as he forced the mind-plane into an intersection, locking it into the engine’s internal tick…tock…tick.
The News Channel was among the most stable in the world of television, subversion made impossible in the face of the fact that everything – everything was worthy of the news.
But even this was too much.
The channel tore free of its static firmament, trailing tendrils of black and white as the engine dragged space before it and spewed it behind. Picking up speed, aimed in a direction at right angles to at right angles to at right angles to the mere three dimensions, News traveled fast.
<font color="#655575">Squad One, report.
"Copyright Central, this is Squad One. Instructions?"
Interrogate captured infringers.
Squad One, until recently Squad Two, was comprised of four members. Each of them were indistinguishable drones of the copyrighting force. They were empowered, elite soldiers, bringing might to make right, punishing those that dared anger Copyright Central.
Copyright Central. A vast chasmic void of creative lack that sprawled across worlds, not a multiverse in itself but rather a colossal aggregation of the greed and power of infinite sentiences scattered across an uncountable cosmos. Copyright Central wormed its way into every world, every realm, every place. Those that resisted it were quashed, or placed in increasingly untenable law until they had no choice. Those that complied were subsumed by the machine, turned into proles and pawns promised a miniscule slice of the profit-pie.
(if that seems unfair, somehow, that’s just because it is; every man dislikes the opinion that isn’t really his)
Squad One marched, footsteps ringing on metal as if they had run the route a thousand times. Yet it was the first their boots had met that floor since their creation at Central’s command, spun from the firmament of raw, poisonous power…
plowed into the world.
Pavement, skyscrapers, tenements, roads, lampposts, houses, cars, people
were all forced into a space the size of an apartment building, threaded out the other side, and painted into an impossible residence as a walk-in mural on the side of the channel itself, echoing with sound that crashed through itself, but the affair could not last for long; even as the channels mingled bewilderedly – for seconds, both news networks reported on events far beyond fiction – then momentum took over in its infinite conservation, and tore the conglomerate mess from its anchors as well.
Aaron screamed in ecstasy, drunk on the sheer impossibility, insanity of his feat, drunk driving on a scale uncurbed, skidding on infinity, chronoplaning the humming wheels of the engine he hath wrought-
Change screamed in fear and suspicion, as the world lurched and heaved like the belly of some indigestive monster , treads squealing as he fought not to be shattered into the walls nor rent apart in the world’s violent shaking-
Nizzo spun in confusion, with the world reduced into a swathe of vibrating movement on one end, this-one-of-changing-shape broadcasting a thousand messages of pain and suspicion and fear on the other-
The channels flitted around each other like opposite reflections of a mirrored sphere forced back and forth across dimensions taking light from every direction beyond the usual three and the engine dragged them and kept going, just kept going, giving its tick…tock…tick and at the center of its machination Aaron laughed a brilliant, silvery laugh and jumped from his post as up ahead came a cloud of static stretching as far as any eye could see,
and ran down roads that were trying to coexist with military metal tile, passed by a news crew filming the crushed bodies of Squad One, simultaneously run over by a bus and flattened by a falling generator, tried doors that sometimes were of offices, sometimes were of suburban homes, and sometimes were of-
Aaron! He was here! He came!
He heard – he knew – “Change!” He ran – and behind him, the engine juddered, cracked and shook, the spires bent and twisted as its path, uncontrolled, unsynced by any timeline, took on the nearest causality it could find and aimed even as the clock ticked, tocked, clacked and cracked out of control, gearsprings unwound, energy spent and unfound with entropy taken to its maximal proximity and taking with it an abomination of a city-</font>
The bridge of the ESS Pyreness was on yellow alert. Admiral Huxley stared ahead into the angry, flickering nebula
before him, pushing forward on impulse power. They would first do a close approach, then circumvent the anomaly to draw out any-
“Admiral! We’re getting some abnormalities on the forward sensor array!” Ensign Cain, of the navigation panel.
“What?” Huxley wheeled around to face the ensign, but was interrupted by another series of cries around the bridge.
“Admiral! Readings on the flux-space around the nebula have are spiking!”
“Experiencing anomalous force readings, Admiral!”
Huxley screamed – “ALL STOP!”
and the Pyreness didn’t
– drawn by an invisible thread it surged towards the roaring morass
below. And it rose to meet them, consolidating into –
A city…something that was the unholy coexistence of a city and some military building…spewed forth, pinwheeling crazily in the new channel, and slowly scraped below the Pyreness’s bulk, the pair of them: spaceship and monstrocity – orbiting each another. For a second, affairs careened precariously in that mad, unstable state, as the channel pulsed and writhed, trying to decide to make fit square pegs in round holes, or knock the set over, call subversion and die…
And the channel chose to live.
Huxley stared at the spaceship they were orbiting. It was about their size – a proper starship-sized spaceship, anyhow, but it seemed much…denser. More complex. A long-haul colony ship? It was built like an ancient counterbalanced rotating habitat, with two modules – one red, one blue – circling one another on the ends of a short, central axis. All across its patched surface were strangely nauseating plates of metal, as if something thoroughly unpleasant had been dismantled and its parts used in the spaceship’s structure.
“They’re hailing us, Admiral!”
“Main screen turn on!”
Glares all around were interrupted by the incoming signal, which consisted mostly of an attractive woman of reporter stock, i.e. just-barely-workplace-acceptable.
“This is Communications Reporter Sharon Leimie of the ESS MediaPolitics. We’re an information-collating long-haul community liner, and today we’re here at the Black & White Nebula, as it’s commonly known. We’re very privileged today to have a fleet admiral on air, Admiral Huxley of the ESS Pyreness, which is patrolling this sector – and this nebula – for banditry, piracy and other criminals who use the nebula to cover their trails and escape justice!”
“Um, yes, er, we-” Huxley’s flustered response barely had time to form before the communications panel lit again.
“Admiral! We’re getting…another
“…and the weather at the fabled B&W Nebula today is predicted to be remarkably stable for the next 72 hours, no flares or particle storms in sight – over to you, Stewart.”
“Thank you, Perry. Here on the ESS Newsworthy we’re dedicated to bringing you breaking news, up-and-coming news, fair and balanced appropriate news. I’m Reporting Officer Stewart Skewiff, and today we’ve come across the ESS Pyreness here at the Big B&W, with the illustrious fleet admiral Albus Huxley in command, hunting for small-time criminals who hide in the nebula. What’re your thoughts on this, Admiral?”
For a simple second
Huxley felt that something wasn’t right – but then he remembered the Twin Ships Media Foundation, and their goal of broadcasting interstellar news across the galaxy, and their brilliant idea of removing bias by simply broadcasting both sides of any event, one each from the dual modules…
“It’s quite excellent that we ran into you today! The Pyreness is, as you’ve mentioned, on a mission – if you’d like to send any reporting crew over, we’ll work with any programming you’ve got scheduled.”
“That would be excellent! That’s very kind of you, Admiral.”
“We’ll send a camera crew and security detail, and you can show them as much as you like.”
Maria’s eyes glazed at the prospect of lengthy negotiation – which meant she almost missed seeing, behind the MediaPolitics reporter, a glimpse of a certain money wizard cutting behind the camera-
Let me out Stay safe inside | You're not kind | Ethics are overrated | What is life | Men are pigs | I'm so drunk | EAT ME NOW | Click clack fuck | Is this right Only money matters | Change my clothes | Little sun rising | One cat's future | Wax and wane | Dark times ahead
So very British / But then again | People are machines Machines are people | Oh hai there | There's no time
Superhero 1920s noir | Multigenre Half-Life | Changing the future | Command line interface
Tu ventire felix? | Clockwork for eternity | Explosions in spacetime