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John Rodrigues (M)
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    Vaticinate - draft part 4a
    Nate was in his area in the Vat. He was evaluating his condition. There was a stripe on his sleeve like people had to wear for a couple of days after reset.

    Nate's wrist irritated him no end. It was held by an invisible cuff. He would reach the key only to see it dissolve in his grasp. It was a prisoner's dilemma. When Nate looked for the chain that was clutching him, all he saw were the faces of his fellow inhabitants. They had become both captives and cage.

    Next time use a combination on the comms or something, he had to tell himself. Of course then he would watch the clip and think it was from someone else.

    The first thing that Nate had to do was to find out who was with him on this. Each bid to form a bond with someone had resulted in their becoming a cut out for the aggressor. They had tried to conduct any number of ways to credit individuals for initiatives, but all those bluffs fell to brusque fiat of the bunched fist. They all seemed to regard him with some sort of pity. He had not done anything to double-cross them with the admin so it was undeserved, but unavoidable. He expected the synd to have set him up somehow. If he were in that role, he would instead encourage them all to explore the vastness outside of the Vat rather than strangle eachother with their petty schemes. There was no way to rank them if all of their abilities were considered, since each had something that he would implement against the injustice.

    Nate had wanted a gang. He got his former crew back. The only people that had been sprung were those eliminated.

    He began to fathom the order that was being kept out there as well as in here. Whoever was at the head was not going up anywhere as much as those underneath were sorting themselves out downward. Having attempted repeatedly to find a hiatus in the heaviness, Nate had gone beyond depression to mindless endurance. It was like the dinner was holding out to see who the diner would be.

    The transhumans had set it up so that each of the groups was aiming to keep the others despondent. That way noone would break through and have a shot at collapsing the system. Humans were considered the foremost offenders. They had earned a vested place in the Vat. This allowed them to celebrate their own valor without compromising the contempt that others afforded them. Instead they would worry that something would seep into their station and shatter it. So far it was able to repair itself each time that there was an incident, but that merely prolonged their pangs indefinitely.


    Nate visited Tarp's former holding area. He could not avoid going over their previous discussions.

    Nate was treated like Tarp was when he returned. Tarp would have thought that Nate betrayed him. He would have wanted to get the humans out of there before things crashed in on it.

    Tarp had tricked the Noth.

    Nate had thought Tarp might have actually been a posthuman and that would mean some other people were also. Or else they had been taken from among alien resistors.

    They thought Nate to be a fool, slave, oaf, or thug. He could be disbelieved afterward. He Had made the whole thing up. He was a straw man that the humans told eachother about so that they would not leave the Vat. There also seemed to have been another Nate on the Vat when the original returned and then used Tarp's name before something else.

    Tarp had tried to warn them. The function of the station was to show its own dysfunction with respect to the species. The transhumans wanted to put all of their threats into a single place. Humans had nowhere to evolve other than by integration. This was seemingly not possible between the groups so it served to reinforce their hostilities. Nate had made the natural adaptation which was to disappear. He had effectively become a predator on the other planets, though, so he was returned. Having been here there was no place else that he belonged any more. The others wanted Nate to arrive where they each need him to be.

    Tarp left an augmentation to snap Nate out of reset. He was immersed. Nate only perceived that he was en route, but not about what it was like anywhere in particular. This was between domain perspectives. Nate wondered if he was actually alone in the Vat which made up the other characters for him. Or if this was an alternate Vat domain compared to the previous. Perhaps he hadd been left in stasis on a desolate planet somewhere. Nate finally recovered the experiences from before all of the resets. He saw all the places where he had been. He was abducted from the cartel. He had been an admin. He was rescued from a brain box by some other humans who were on Earth the entire while. Nate was hijacked by the time-traveler Zag. Nate was the equivalent of Tarp or Trom because of his excursion. Maybe that allowed him to have found several alternative meanings for the Vat. He had stayed with it for romance, riches and revenge. The object from the cartel mine established Nate's right without peer while Knawe had the betan version. He demolished the museum and made a new version which he could set the contents of instead. Augmentation seemed to be like a multis at times, invisible to others, but manipulated by something obstreperous. He had to know what the device mediating the field was. He had to consider converting to a type of posthuman.

    If not the favor of his foe, then perhaps he could at least claim a pause in the punishment by imparting the insights that he had about their common enemies. It may be nothing, but it would bring him that much closer to the culprit that had eluded him on Earth.

    Tarp had thought that there was a fixed period of time, and it would be short, before the aliens made their approach. Nate had used up most of it. The extinction would be complete this time.


    Nate was not sure that he had made it back to the same Vat that he had started from. There was something slightly different about it. Maybe it was that the artificial was making sure that everything was right for some reason.

    Nate had been trying to get away from it before so it was like a nuisance. Now that he had seen the alternatives, he was dependent upon it. It was good in a way that Tarp did not succeed immediately then, or else they would all have been up against the same groups that he had met along the way. It would not have been as easy to get through them as quickly. He had a feeling now that things were going to become critical. They were for him already, but it was going to catch up to the others. When it did he did not know if they would expect him to show them how to get through it as well, or if they were going to take him out to win the posthumans' favor. That would do them no good, because there would be another in his place until they ran out of people.

    The Vat had meant a sanctuary to begin with, but now it was something else. In most domains, the materials are formed from the elements which are produced by the gas and stellar phases. This was not the case in null space. They had to be brought here from other places. Similarly supernovas, blackhoes and entropy were not considered the major lines of progression here either. The Vat would remain intact unless someone took it apart. They could create additional domains around it if necessary and these would be like makers for anything else they required. There was an order to it, though he did not know how or what. What it signified was that the aliens and machines could fundamentally shift all that so that something else was here or this was where they wanted it to be instead. In either case, humans were not the primary concern.

    This place had been like a caretaker to him. It may not have seemed human and been more eerie in the way that it went about things, but it seemed to notice people. The haunting was a strange way of saying that it was aware of what else was happening. It did not seem to be protective of any particular group. He could not have knocked it out if he had ten times the number of people, but that did not mean that someone from another domain would have the same limitations. The species had a long history of attempting to placate some superior entity without avail and it had brought them here, so maybe it had been like a magnet for the lack of depth in their lives, or vice-versa.

    People often talked about confinement as having been a hard time, but worth it in the long run because nothing else could have changed them for the better. This could be compared to something like that, but without the results yet. At least the weather was not random like on some planets. It had its objects and he had his augmentation so they vied for who had the initiative.


    Nate had been brought here in a multis. There was something going on with them, though. They could not be used as multiverse transports because something had interfered with their makeup. They had all been synched before, but that had been used against them so that they were all nonfunctional. There were still some comms with the artificials, but they were stuck in the domains that they had most recently arrived at.

    This could have been some propaganda meant to deter people from duplicating what he had done. The only way to find out would be to take the thing somewhere else. He was not the person for this, though, because his experiences had caused a lot of difficulties. He could not recall a single day which did not suffer a setback since he had left here. He had the feeling that there would be another ahead.


    There were a bunch of humans who claimed to be running the Vat. It was their station and, despite what the posthumans claimed, they made the rules. Nate had run afoul of these so he had to be examined. In the meantime, he would be kept in a storage area. They had not had anyone escape before. The person who arrived with something that was not in their interests had been dealt with as he knew. They were a lot better organized than Nate had seen anyone here before. There were a bunch of devices that made it look like the helm of a ship. They did not use any effective aggressive measures since that would confound the synds and lead to the lessening of what benefits the humans had achieved so far. They had to attend to any of their mediations personally. That is what allowed them to stay behind the scenes all along. Nate had thought that the routine and noot had been what was keeping people in line. Some of them had traits that put them reflexively beyond these so there were these others that folded them back in somehow. It was as much ideological as physical. They had their own take on what made lives worthwhile and when the group was about to deteriorate. The Vat had introduced some new disorders that made those that seemed tolerable on Earth into severe hazards that would take everyone down in short order if not attended to. The symptoms might be obvious, such as someone who had stopped eating and had been rundown, or was taking a number of others into a direct course toward a definite end. These were all diverted and fixed before anyone had known that they were there to begin with. To the extent that it promoted a good environment for the public, then there would be no argument. When it was about taking away what options that people had for a solution to this conundrum, then it became questionable. Nate could not agree with it as completely as the outfit demanded. They were not specifically admin, pursuers, cartel, guild, or any other group that he was familiar with, but they thought that they had the same responsibilities and that the rest should accept that. This gave them a sense of authority for brief bursts. They blended in with the normal behaviors otherwise.

    Nate was having flashbacks to Terra Beta and Earth because of it. They could see that it was difficult for him, but did not release him anyway. He had not foreseen that his own people would double-cross him like this. Knawe did not raise any objection which also surprised him. She must have known that it was hopeless. it would need a faction bigger than this to restrict them and then there would be a split that would render the humans into brutish partisanships as had occurred so often when they were on the planet. The much longer lives that they had enjoyed would be gone and it would be up to the synds, or any of the other posthumans, to decide their fate. That would make them no better than the clones in the aliens' possession. If they thought that this was what it was like being outcast, then they would be aghast at what they found next. He had skipped the most damaging parts during his flight, but it had not gone well for anyone else that he had seen. He did not want them to fall to that level. That would be what it was like if either he stayed like this or was given the maximum measure as had been Tarp. He had to get out of here as soon as possible. He was able to conjure an augmented illusion that made it look like he had bolted and they inadvertently provided a route for him to fulfill that. Now it was the same as out in space where he had to be far enough ahead that they would not be able to nab him, at least before he could make sure that they were headed toward the cleft in the lines that were closing in on them.


    Nate thought that he could hide in the Vat. This must be where those apparitions were from. There could be others that had done so.

    It was not as hard staying clear of the synd as he would have thought. He was drawn to contact Knawe, but steeled himself so that she would not be sacrificed as the Noth had. The artificial made no attempt to scour the inside of the station for him. The posthumans must have thought that he had found another way out. He was not sure that he would take it if he did. The other humans had been left in peril enough while he was planet-hopping to no avail.

    He was becoming skilled at tracking the admins. His augmentation used a minimal amount of energy so that they could not see any consumption. He kept a record of their routines and was getting better at predicting where they would be when so that he could be someplace else. The good news was that he could get to the supplies without being repulsed as before.

    It had occurred to him to take out the nonhumans, but there were several complications. He would not be able to do so himself, so that meant getting some of the other people involved. They may not all agree quickly enough. They might not succeed either. If they did, however, then there would be concern among the artificials who were not here and they would relay that to the transhumans. This might bring contingents so that there would be more after them than there were already. He could not take all of his group away at once or the posthumans would follow. He did not know what was laying in wait for them outside the Vat anyway. The betans had seemed lucky initially and that had not gone well.

    He would not want to stay in the shadows forever. If he did make a getaway, then he needed some place to setup a habitat that would not be flagged and alert them to come after him. He had some contacts on Mars that would cover for him, but there would be a temptation to earn any rewards that were announced for his capture so that would not continue indefinitely either.

    There might be a spot where he could convert. It would have to look like he had never been a human. That left everyone in the station as it was so it would have all been for naught.

    Perhaps they were better off without him. He could not be sure that his absence would not spur someone, as Tarp's had for him. That would pass his karma along unfairly. He had gotten them into this predicament at least the period since he had gone away previously.

    This had given him a breather to think about things abstractly. Life would seem to be better lived that way, but only if many others do not have the same idea in which case it returns to the shuffle. He had to make up his mind without much delay.

    It would be better to face the posthumans directly.


    Nate was running out of places to sequester himself and he was not about to follow in Tarp's footsteps.

    Humans had never defeated their own woes such as tyranny or cartel. They were still struggling with rights when the posthumans showed up. There were always contradictions in their responses to advances, e.g. on the one hand they wanted to vastly reduce sugar and meat protein in their diets, and the other the ease of bioprinting meant that they could enjoy delicacies formerly reserved for cannibals.

    Something similar occurred in the case of Knawe. There was another track to this that used the Vat as a cover, but might have played out if the humans were stranded on an exoplanet or anywhere else. They were a species that had insatiable curiosity about space while at the same time being a novelty of their own environment. The Darwinian motives for competition had been superseded by the desire for status for other reasons. They wanted to appear valuable to other groups beside their own.

    Perhaps it had started with the machines. If those were considered the cultural ideal, then people wanted to be associated with them. Then it was transferred to the posthumans and aliens.

    Now it seemed to be spiraling in reverse as far as Nate could tell. He did not have the artificials view of the domains. They would be trying to cancel any dominance that the nontranshumans were acting towards.

    The question was then about where the evaluation was being made and whether he bought the decision. Noone else had been through what he had attempted. Though it had not worked out as planned, it had showed what humans were being morphed by. The multiverse may have all sorts of domains which balance out in terms of biased effects, but the groups were the active elements that established the order of civilization. It sounded obvious, but the consequences were not intuitive. Humans should either have been taken out at first, or maintained as the original basis in case there needed to be resets. Nothing was starting from them any more, however. They had merely established the terms which the others used to discuss how limited they were. The good news was then that they had conceptually established a hold. Not so great was that it catapulted everyone else ahead of them.

    If Nate had been searching for his origins, then he must have passed by the bottle or bot shack when he arrived on Earth, because nothing else seemed to have that ring of recognition. It was not the same as being raised by wolves, or becoming the king of the jungle, because it was the standard for people in those days. The adventure consisted of being abducted in various ways. If the admins or adversaries had been the culprits, then there might be a lesson on how societal needs shaped the destinies of its classes. Instead they had all been caged and the only possibilities for any change happened off the charts. If he had told anyone about it, they would find it incredible unless they had been through the paces themselves. Like the transhumans and betans, Knawe would have shuffled many planets at the same time rather than follow the singular path that he had taken.


    Nate went to Knawe's area to reestablish contact.

    Nate used the augmentation to create what looked like a synth standing over them at enough of an altitude for them to not want to look up and have to attempt to hide their expressions.

    It was interesting to see how their roles had changed. Nate had gone from being a fugitive, to the main holdout. Where Tarp's proclamations had heralded the inevitable, now they seemed to have been much more mysterious that thought. Lange had gone from oppressor to liberator. Subtrahend was less of a wizard and more of a oaf. Knawe was no longer as headstrong, but easygoing instead. Trom, the leader was now a follower. The Moderator, ex machina, was merely a box. The betans, once a closeknit gang, were the rabble of a mob. The Noths were not sidekicks, but rivals. Opqrst, the enemy, was an ally. Nephthys, thought to be a forthright guide, had slyly steered him astray.

    How long this would continue for each of them was unknown. People usually returned to their basic natures if given half a chance and the stresses of the situation lifted. Half of them were better before, he had to admit, but he would gladly trade them for what the others had become which he had not expected.

    He was never going to get out of the station again. Therefore he had to shore it up so that it was invulnerable. He had thought that Knawe would want to be there while he did this, but she had been drawn to the posthumans it seemed. He was pretty sure he knew which she favored the most. It was almost like he did not feel any ache in his ribs because of all the rest of the mess they were in. He would have to cope with it. He was not fooling himself, though. If he was right, then there was going to be an individual who would be knocked out of it post haste and it was not going to be him. Knawe seemed to be someone that he had known all along and for her to see someone else as more substantive was the most discounting slight that he had ever experienced. This was not saying much for people as a group. There were manners. She could at least give him the benefit of the doubt. He could grow to fill any demands that she had, that was how important she was to him. If it went unmatched, that would be okay. It was not ideal, but it was better than it had been when they were so far apart and out of touch. He had learned a thing or two from the Noth about how they regarded her and that would not be an issue for him. The question was how to get her to have a similar intensity. She was not unthinking or unemotional, but there had been a direction which she had forsaken and it became more obvious to him each day. If there was any way to get that back, he would gladly take it no matter the obligation.

    Nate spent too much time away from Knawe so they were not going to be close.

    Nate and Knawe meant something else before the resets.

    Nate walked away with the goods and Knawe stayed with the Vat.

    Each move was measured like the drumbeats of a death march. His mania was masked only by his numbness toward Knawe.


    Nate returned to his own area to consider what lay in store.

    What is human? Or rather what was it. Most of it had already been taken from them. They saw their planet in another group's hands. They had their history contained in an artifact which was, for all intents and purposes, off limits to them. The length of their lifetimes were not theirs because they were effectively unlimited. Their identity was reset whenever someone else thought that they had exceeded their privileges.

    Perhaps this is what they had done to the semi-sentient devices that they had made, so it only seemed right for them to have to experience the same view of their own being.

    They had their own set of people who would vouch for eachother from long acquaintance.

    Nate had accepted Tarp into their midst for a brief period. The fact that the other was then forcibly removed only seemed to intensify the feelings that they had forfeited another of their own.

    All of the posthumans thought of themselves either included in, or surpassing, the designation. That included the betans, clones and other exiles that he had met. There were pieces of personalities that had been left in other places which had given him some pointers as to how to proceed.

    It might have been easier for a human to list what was not than what was because they were unable to distinguish it from themselves and they had not had to discuss it much before. They were being held for being of the species after all.

    Everybody else had made up rules for what to expect from the humans and how to keep them from taking over again.

    There was a classic taxonomy that would put humans somewhere along a tree. Each node tended to result in continuance of itself, however there had been some kind of natural function that had intervened and split up into the machines and posthumans. The aliens were described by domains which were like territories, but were the fundamental ingredients that created phenomena, in this case life. In his own case, there was supposed to have been the big bang, then the effects of gravity and inflation which accreted into the materials which had led to the people that he saw in the station. The Vore had not gotten to his area of space soon enough to prevent the conversion. That was an oversight which they seemed about to rectify. The machines were going to boomerang on them both. The Vat was like a box seat at the curtain. It seemed indestructible while everything around it was decimated, inside there was only a shift in balance and someone might call up an additional group from another domain. It was such a truncated segment that it was hard to draw conclusions about what had preceded it with any certainty. The race here could have begun on Earth as he had thought, but then it could have as easily been from any other domain as well. The multis that the transhumans had created to track the aliens had made them interchangeable. Taking out the humans put them all on notice.


    Nate had to figure out where the synds were in all of this.

    Lange had been acting on behalf of the artificial as an admin over the humans. He had needed a ship. Nate had planned on supplying it, but had been rushed back without any. The synd would make an example of Nate for the rest. Tarp had already been abruptly removed since he would have reset Lange to before he got to the vat.

    Lange does not take Knawe seriously. The synds appreciate the value of the Noths. There may be a place for them in greater space. The synds were not partial to the betans. Synds had worked with the brain boxes before and could convert them.

    Lange would take over if the artificials and transhumans left. The synds had cooperated with the transhumans before to try to save Mars complec. Nate had met people there. The transhumans were less supportive of the synds these days. The synds would not return to Earth. Nor did they need any particular exoplanets. Synds needed their own version of the multis that would be compatible with the twin ships. They preferred to tether autonomous ships to someone.

    Lange would have to decide who to side with between the aliens and machines.


    Nate walked into a crowded area. They had been discussing what was about to happen and why. The Vat was an artifact valued by all. It had the same issues as the megacities once had.

    The reasons that they were all in the Vat were many. This was a shelter that they fled to when they thought the Earth was going to be destroyed. It was an attempt at a physical domain container. They were too vital to put into stasis. They had a genetic condition which made them nonconvertible. Their skills were necessary. The Vat became like another member of the crew. The Vat represented the brain.

    There were a lot of theories about why there was so much dispute. Each set of people had their reason, but they were all tricked. The Vat produced a field which overrode minds. They were supposed to be in for a short period, but ran out of time. The Vat could be destroyed. It was a successor to Correction. It was made for bot maintenance. It was a combination of nasty failures. They were an elite pursuer team who was being broken. They were a rescue squad sent to extract trapped people. They were escaped prisoners. They were all being monitored to find the culprit. There were psychopaths who were being rehabilitated. They were guards at a corrupt facility. Their ancestors had betrayed cartel. The lesson was about ostracism and becoming zombies. It was still spontaneously generating ghosts for some reason. It wanted to make a monster to send into the domains. Nate was the prime candidate. Knawe was the other. The Noth would run the fiefdoms.

    Wed, Mar 5, 2014  Permanent link

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