Chapter 11: A life sentence
A matte black delta-wing transport exhausts a stream of compressed air near the southernmost shore of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron causing concentric ripples to propagate on the waters. Some of the disturbances kiss the smooth pebbled bank and the others blend with the wind-swept whitecaps. On board, four International Technology Agency commandos have been waiting in a sealed blackout canister with streaming connectivity links and debate the ways of apprehending the next android trafficker on the Magna list given to them by the Great House council an hour ago.
Denis Mercurio is the name. The operatives know his name touches those at the highest levels. The charge is aiding underground android fetish societies in the acquisition of signal interface chips allows the deviants to immerse in animal robots for unsanctioned battles in remote bunkers. The operatives agree that body-jacking could lead to another World Wide Mind problem, the greatest sin to the ITA. The orders are set
The agents finalize the documentation and the extraction plan. They decide to apprehend Denis before he gets into his home in a snatch and secure operation. The commandos are aware of the unregistered person occupying the suspect’s abode but decide to leave that to the Domestic Services Division. The Navigator tells the Operation Officer that the suspect’s ship is approaching and the metabolic registration signal is confirmed. They switch the transport over to stealth mode. The silent ship makes its way as a glimmer of a ghost decreasing in visibility across the salmon sunset as the trees dark cast of shadows works to their benefit. Denis’s ship travels with a standard flight plan.
“Ship, land on the second platform so I can see if the waste removal robots picked up the trash on time,” Denis says as the seat retracts. The ship boosted the power and slows the descent through the treetops.
“The front gate will not respond to your code,” the ship’s AI states as it makes its adjustments for the touchdown. The ship lands square in the center of the ancient concrete helicopter landing pad used for public transports outside the main gate. Denis is confused. He shuffles off the landing pad’s steps, metal rimmed boots tapping on the cement, as the wind brings the scent of fresh water to his lips and nose. The citadel palisade gate does not open and the ship takes off. He strolls the path, hands curled in his pockets, to the long curtain wall down to the second gate a hundred meters away where he can manually input the code main and be scanned by the system.
His peripheral vision picks up a rustle in the dense foliage of oaks, sycamores and purple mountain laurels that line the security wall near the second gate. He trots to the console thinking I hope it’s not wolves and hastily inputs the code. The curtain wall slides down into a sleeve and covers the opening with a few hops. The gate rises up like a fast-growing mountain range. He gets halfway to the citadel on the vast, even front lawn and feels a sharp vibrating pain coming from his lower back that travels to his eyes as he sees a white sharp light in the center of his field of view. He watches the cold grass and ground rise up and slam him in the face in slow motion as a few staggered images of boots flash by and then all goes black. His nannites go into standby mode.
The adrenaline boosted augmented agents rush to the fallen suspect with great speed created by their contoured chameleon-skin exoskeletons. The group leader puts out a masking field to stop the transmission of any signals to alert the inhabitants. One operative lifts the body limp like a sack of dirt and places him in a fireman’s carry. He bounds in five-meter leaps back to the trees and right over the wall like a panther. They run back to the cloaked shuttle a kilometer away in under a minute.
Their operation is a success and the communication is given to inform the Tetrabunial that the suspect is in custody. The transport takes off without any sensors detecting it for a hundred kilometers, except Aum, as it becomes ingrained with the rest of the robotic and civilian traffic in the airways. The coordinates are set for the United Planets Justice Cadre building in Geneva and take off their athletic augmentation exoskeletons and disengage the link. They unceremoniously arrive and deposit the captive.
Denis scratches his swollen eyes as the glare of sensory overload kindles a spark that leads to a welding blue flame in his occipital lobe. He stands before he can see as the recollection of pain haunts the shallow cellar of his thoughts. Wobbly and blind, he tries to send a signal from his newly modified implant as he realizes that his eyes are becoming foggy and he is trapped in a geodesic dome, a transparent Bucky Ball, a barrier chamber. His eyes try to blink the haze away and he is able to barely make out the walls of the chamber. Outside, the rubble of an ancient Romanesque cathedral comes into focus after a few hard blinks. The outside of the building is lit by rows of street lamps. He knows the building across from him, the UPJC castle where so many of the Amorals found their fate. The ground outside is scorched and littered with the debris of fractured stone not weathered by the natural forces of nature.
A fluffy light snow has begun to fall as the wind streaks the flakes along in cold lines above. Denis ponders about what asinine charges will be raised against him and if his captors will have enough courage to reveal their identities. He knows the dome is bugged so closes his eyes and screams, “You won’t make me submit. I will persist. You cannot keep me here. Invisible cowards, petty puppets! The family Mercurio shall endure.”
He sits on the cold floor in the middle of the geometric space. Two tubes extend from the structures support ribs and Denis is darted with the coma-programming compound Sommeilex. He slumps and sleeps as holographic avatars of the Great House Council all dressed in courtly robes manifest in the ballroom next door. The hidden trial commences.
“I do not wish to do this, but our responsibility extends outside of our own self-interests. This institution must stand even if we submit to the fall of one of our own. We must not only safeguard ourselves, we are the custodians of the species,” a baritone voice proclaims.
“We exist in turmoil and tension between what is best for the species and what is best for the individual,” a soprano voice states from a cloud of yellow gas that hovers in the center of the ballroom under a chandelier and continues, “Families huddle together to spread their genes for profit, in contrast, the competition created, is the conflict in which all of the society must be involved. What is the best shall survive even if some must suffer the fate of an impious past, so be it! These measures might seem drastic but the masses have been dictated to before and it is our job to protect the status quo. Our deeds will be acknowledged as we mold the will and bodies of our progeny. In the coming storm and stress, some will suffer and others will be saved, but as in all things, actions will have consequences. Now a vote.”
Isa peers out to the western sky as he inspects the vast landscape for more intruders while leaning on the wrought iron railing of an exposed balcony. The cold air burns all his body heat away. He knows that Denis is in trouble from the surveillance camera recordings. Isa asks Freak if it might be able to get some information through Aum, but for now, he just waits and wants silence. The misty frigid air cascades across his fragile façade as he gazes deeply to the depth of the horizon. Skies of purple ink and rivulets of condensed lavender overlay the milky translucent canvass as onyx night crashes with the opal horizon of a dying day. The trailing luminosity of background stars burns through the horizon.
Denis fights the mind-altering drugs and is surrounded by blurry outlines of images. He feels that decisions have been rendered against him and rubs his eyes and shakily stands up. He wobbles as he switches his weight from foot to foot. His dark business suit itches. He wonders what is wrong with my nannites?
“So you have come to pass judgment. How considerate of you and I didn’t think any of you cared, I’m touched. Sure it’s trite but it means so much. On to the topics at hand then. I can’t keep this Kangaroo court from jumping away like the good herd animals you are. I will say that I did nothing that was not legal at the time. If people take what I sell and then turn it into something illegal without my knowledge or permission I am not responsible. So on to your charges and verdicts. If you want, you can do the later first for the sake of expediency,” Denis says.
The chamber surrounding Denis turns opaque with an electric current as the snow’s motion is barely perceived by the enveloped prisoner. A holographic projection of four green masked magistrates manifests above him as a Greek Chorus.
In unison, “Denis Mercurio as a willing participant in a scheme to corrupt the integrity of the Individuality Security Act. You are sentenced to economic limitation. You may only deal with minor technology but may never negotiate credit transaction resulting in a profit margin of over five percent and you shall be removed from the android industry in both sale and research. As for the more serious charges, you are found guilty of the wrongful intellectual death of twelve citizens through the sensory overloads of the cybernetic links that were found to be faulty and illegal as of this last governmental council. The Commerce Commission states that you are to be given life. As the statute states, you will have most augmentations removed and your genes will be placed back into the cycle of degeneration and follow the natural path of a human lifespan. The free radicals are free once again. All nano-technology has already been deactivated and will be removed. Natural sensations will no longer be suppressed like pain and physical ailments can and will infect you. Your lifespan will be greatly reduced as you must suffer the greatest of all infirmity, old age, the regrettable fate.
As for the remaining sentence. There were twelve deaths and since twelve members of your family have perished, these Birth Rights are now available for the victims’ families of your hostile business actions. One last statement, if you are ever found with any technology that could be used to re-link the World Wide Mind you shall be executed. Is there anything you would like to say?”
“It’s not over.”
“Your family was destroyed. It is over.”
“Oh yes, of course. Get this over with and let me go,” Denis says, props up, his head lifts and his lips split to reveal his teeth. The holograms transform into hooded judges with octopus eyes. The hairs on his neck rise as he stands impertinently glaring at them with hateful intent.
“You are free to go. Tomorrow you must go to the medical station in Toronto that has been downloaded into your data files to have the nannites extracted. A transport is waiting for you. Exit to the left of the dome and the computer will lead you to the hanger.”
Denis knows the sensors will pick up stress so he sighs and knows the last statement was a probe to see if Leon is alive.
The sterile quiet of the citadel, Isa roams the premises while examining the Flemish Renaissance paintings deftly arranged around the meandering corridors of the west wing. Freak pretends to be dormant and listens in the outer realms of Isa’s mind.
“What rooms have I not visited computer?” Isa asks and looks into the coruscating chameleon walls as they undulate in rainbow tones. The corridor light up with scrolling arrows to show him the way. The sensors upgrade biometric information and adjust to his orientation. Isa thinks he really likes the simple houses that rarely exist anymore on the outlying circumference of the populated areas. They were stable.
“You have not been to the library, gallery or the observation tower in the southern obelisk,” says the citadel’s computer.
“Thank you. Where is the gallery?”
“The gallery is directly in front of you. Please follow the white light pulsing arrows to the door.”
“In relation to the gallery where is the library?”
“So just follow the white lights to the library?”
Art is thought given form. Somewhat like me. Wow Freak, you are talking to yourself. Isa hears it as a background whisper. Freak realizes that Isa heard him talking to himself. Isa had forgotten for a moment about the other in his head.
Freak, where have you been? Isa asks and follows the lights through a rounded archway. He notices an offset room to his right with an open door but the computer did not mention this room. He leans in and sees a room terraced like an amphitheater with a stage and a massive bow window behind lined by red and blue stained-glass beading. Eastern light floods over the stage in a compact with the sun.
I like the decorative colors around the perimeter of the window, Freak signals.
“That is stained glass I think. I like the wooden pews. You don’t see that much anymore,” Isa says.
Why, wood is abundant?
“It’s not intelligent,” Isa says. The lights flicker and get his attention. He pulls his head out of the doorway. He wonders why such a room? Isa picks up his step as an orchestra plays faint music as the door to the right begins to glow a brilliant red as the colors cool to a blue flame.
Freak interjects, That’s Brahms Isa.
“I know, but how did you?”
I accessed your memories.
“When did you develop that ability?”
I always had it.
“Next time ask because you should learn on your own if you want to truly become an equal entity.”
You’re right, sorry.
The music surrounds them as a set of French doors open before Isa to a Baroque gallery. The room, green as mint, holds an eclectic collection of statues, archeological relics and minerals in glass cases following a spiraling white carpet. Paintings of rural scenes hang along the walls that match the views of the scattered windows. A marble statue of a Viking guards the entrance of the carpeted concourse and in the center sits a gleaming jewel collections, a sun that all other art orbits.
Isa wanders on the coil of carpet and Freak wants to gaze upon the paintings but retrains his desire to tell Isa. The orchestral music masks the grind and rumble of an exoskeleton sentinel patrolling the grounds outside as the citadel transfers to high-alert. All internal and external alarms sound and the lockdown procedures enact. Red lights pulse in the halls. Isa cuts in between the displays and makes his way to a window. Persian rug slides under his feet as he reaches the view. The craft carrying Denis descends near the landing bay.
Denis crawls out the yellow-cab public transport. His face is partially paralyzed from the drugs and limps up the path as a sentinel rolls to a stop blocking his path.
“Identify,” the sentinel states.
“What? I’m Denis Mercurio, you idiot.”
“Voice recognition verified,” it says and rolls away on its tracks.
Facial recognition software must be upgraded if my numb face confuses it Denis thinks. He lumbers up the terraced walkway and reaches the front door to the western tower. The door will not open. Denis clenched his fists and his nostril flare with anger. He delivers a series of heavy knocks bloodying his knuckles. Blood drips from his hand and streaks down the door. He lifts his knuckles and is reminded that his nannites are deactivated as the wounds don’t heal before his eyes. The doors open to reveal Isa hunched over panting.
“What in the hell did you do?” Denis asks.
Dee and Leon are allowed entry into the Valles Marinaris space-port and Rjinn shakes his head as he stops them at the gate. His tense eyes relax as he sees Dee’s concern.
“Dee, Leon, I made alternative travel plans. I’ve been informed by a friend that certain factions are tracking our movements,” Rjinn says.
“Do these factions know I’m alive?” Leon asks.
“No, but they are aware of your dummy account has been activated and know it is associated with your clan,” Rjinn says and tugs on the black lapel of his Victorian Chesterfield coat.
Dee and Leon hold hands as Rjinn leads the way down the dome enclosed tarmac. A crimson sandstorm blows over as they reach the Queen Mary Six space-liner and step onto the escalator by the lush arboretum. Each is scanned as they enter the ship that looks like it could sail the seas of Earth and they hike down rows upon rows of luxury cabins to find their black solid-state seats at the back of economy-class.
Hours pass in discreet chunks as Leon’s fear of sabotage suspends like bubbles in oil. Rjinn engages in polite conversation with other passengers until take off. Dee and Leon lock fingers and lean into each other as the dome opens and the thrust engage. The friction of the atmosphere is brief and in moments the cloth of space falls around the ship. Leon winks at Dee and she kisses him on the cheek. Her kiss evaporates with a cool touch as the overhead fan activates.
“I do wish we were on an ascension class ship so the journey wouldn’t take three days but that’s three more days with you. Come to think of it, couldn’t have worked out better,” Leon says.
“If we had a cabin it would have,” Dee says and winks.
“You are a terror. If my enemies only knew,” Leon says.
The over-unity manifold hums as the Queen Mary Six reaches top speed. The stars distort outside the viewing portals.
Meanwhile, Denis calls upon an Amoralist Tech-Doc to reconfigure his nannites in the R&D labs in the red citadel’s medical bays three levels below ground. Aum watches Denis and the progress of the Queen Mary Six.
Three days later, Dee sits alone in a hard seat by a viewing portal. Her gaze is directed by the spaceliner's AI to the distance where she spies a small satellite at the end of a tether of light between the Earth and the Moon. Electromagnetic radiation of all bands flows and curves around the spherical object. The window’s holographic emitter displays a red halo around the target. She inspects the anomaly while beginning to eavesdrop on the mousey woman next to Leon who rambles on and on. A tilted smile cracks on her face as she thinks that woman has no idea whom she is talking.
“You should really have your nannies elevate activity in your Temporal Lobe. It allows you to feel so much more,” the mousey woman says to Leon.
“I’m fine. There is no need for my emotions to bend my thoughts into thinking there’s anything to the new ideologies,” Leon says.
“So sir, you don’t believe in a transcendent soul or a super consciousness that we all eventually meet up with. Honestly, that’s downright small of you. There is so much evidence. Not to conceive of an after-death is fatuous,” says the woman as her black dress falls with a shimmer off her knees as she crosses her legs. Leon’s eyes roll back as he closes his eyes and then rubs his forehead. The fan below his feet vents processed air.
“To aver unfounded alacrity with dispensational folly plucked from one discipline to the next is counterproductive of what you speak. A young woman with such indomitable tenacity becoming a thrall to popular theory is a shame. The verve and voracity are commendable, but I have seen so much that rarefies your, at best, capricious theories and this extends the obvious. All the theories fall short of just a leap of faith. I will offer you some advice. You should have your nannies, uh nannites, adjust your processing flow through your prefrontal cortex and not your limbic system. Youthful emotions lead to juvenile perception. Listen, you are going to have the same body for a very long time so there is no need to grow up so fast. You should not look for after-death and certainty just humanity,” Leon says with a terse smile and a quick nod to the young woman. The processed air drifts over him drying his eyes.
Leon excuses himself and shuffles down the aisle to the compact mess hall by the lavatory where a kidney-shaped table catches the dusty light from the overhead lamp. He yanks out a frail plastic chair, sits on the rounded edge and begins to think of his mother as the table looks like the one from breakfast nook in the white citadel where he and she ate and talked when he was young. A gloss slips over his eyes. Two tears race down his cheek. With a sniff and a quick wipe, the tears are vanquished.
Rjinn comes up behind Leon, places his chilled hands on his broad shoulders and then sits down next to him.
“Rjinn, do you think retaliation is a necessary act? There are so many choices in life but seemingly no real freedom. I feel disconnected from nature and almost everyone. It doesn’t seem right,” Leon says and rocks forward in his chair.
“There is no freedom unless we continue to lie in this fractured flawed reasoning we ferment in. As to this nature, it must die and we have only paralyzed it for a time. False sages with half-lives radiating meaning through the economic and entertainment centers and portals are never-ending so listen to your feelings. As for freedom, it doesn’t exist. Only the freedom to choose but that in itself is an act of limits. Some of us are not made for this world and the world has made us. So to answer your question, yes, retaliation is necessary otherwise the Mercurios will be extinct. There will be much stress in the upcoming storm but you will do fine,” Rjinn says and puts his hand on Leon’s drooping shoulder.
“Wow, I thought I was the only one onboard that liked to dazzle with bullshit. I’m going to go sit with Dee. Are you coming?” Leon asks and reaches across his chest to grab Rjinn’s cold hand.
“Right behind you, always.”
Dee has her face to the window watching the pulsing light like a dog sizing up an intruder as Rjinn and Leon stand in the aisle. The beacon in the distance is surrounded by a spherical framework of rails and intertwined metallic tubes, a massive Celtic knot tying up the heavens. The blue aura grows to almost fill the frame but sputters out as the beacon flicks out shards of purple light from a core darker than space. Time dilates and so do Dee’s transfix eyes. All movement stops in the sludge time. Motion is then unlatched and all goes back to normal. Rjinn had a feeling this would happen when they got closer to the Moon. Dee turns to look upon her love with strained sight.
“What was that?” Dee asks Leon. He shakes his head.
“It is the newest STD generator, Space-Time Distortion, and is being used to move the Moon closer a few miles to Earth’s orbit and stabilize the spin. It warps Space-Time like a mini black hole. What a fantasy that was over a hundred years ago but then Eveline was born,” Rjinn says.
“Rjinn why do they need to move the Moon?” Dee asks and grabs Leon’s arm as he sits.
“The Moon slowly drifts away and with the other gravity experiments in the solar system, the scientists just want to be safe. The Moon provides stabilization to Earth’s rotation and prevents it from tilting back and forth on its axis like a gyroscope. Without it, the weather would be chaotic. By using modified gravity drives they create a mini-black hole and return the moon to where it was ten thousand years ago. One day we might be able to use this technology to open up channels into Hyperspace and travel through the bulk dimension. If so, we might be able to beat the deep space mission Astrae to the earth like planets,” Rjinn says and scratches his right temple. A part of Aum, embedded in the space-liner's AI, monitors Leon and Dee.
The passengers are prepared for landing by the smooth-faced android attendants. Everyone straps into their seats as the Queen Mary Six smacks into the atmosphere. Aum watches entry from a weather satellite.