But Thomas Aiken Is Dead - Part I

BOOK: But Thomas Aiken Is Dead - Part I
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"I found this book to be, above all, extremely thought provoking. Apart from the compelling nature of the distraught father trying to find his daughter, there are deep philosophical currents running through the book, that deal with the value of independent thought and action, and the cost of exchanging independence for perceived safety. I consider it a big, delicious serving of food for thought!" -
Terry Sprouse

"It's amazing that a cosmic interrogation by half-sentient artificial intelligence and a do-it-yourself investigation by a father looking for his disappeared daughter can set up such a tension.
I need the sequels." -
Rares Marian

"I’m excited to see how each story develops and will definitely read the next in the series. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a compelling and eloquent sci-fi tale." -
Julia Nicholls

About the Author:
Alex McKechnie is a British novelist, born in almost-rural South England. He was raised on a diet of two parts science fiction, one part literature, and he thinks that's a pretty good ratio. Having published in literary magazines and science fiction anthologies, he now focuses mainly on novels and short story collections. He currently lives in Sofia, Bulgaria.

 

© 2014
by Alex McKechnie.
All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any written or electronic format without written permission of the author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the author.

 

For The Children

In the next century or the one beyond that, they say,

are valleys, pastures, we can meet there in peace if we make it.

 

To climb these coming crests one word to you, to you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

—Gary Snyder

1.

Internment Transcription – Ersatz-Ningen Denizen – Blue Tier
Present Subjects: The Interlokutor (Cadence Official), The Breacher (Cadence Official), Ersatz-Ningen Subject (Perpetrator)

The Interlokutor:

We hope you are, at the very least, appreciative that we chose to interact with you in this manner. It is not a comfortable mode of eksist.

Atia:

I will keep that in mind. Since you’re being so hospitable, why don’t you just conduct the interview without the Breacher here?

The Breacher:

Due to the nature of your recent actions I am required to be present at all interviews from this time onwards.

Atia:

Wonderful…

The Interlokutor:

We will begin with the details of your internment. If you wish me to clarify or expand on a particular point, I will do so. You are hereby – that is, your selfsense and all its contributory artifacts – confined to Blue Tier until the particulars of your transgression have been ascertained. Depending on the outcome of this investigation you will either be released back into Cadence Major or detained while make necessary adjustments to your selfsense in an effort to ensure you do not commit similar transgressions in future. Do you understand me in full?

Atia:

Yes.

The Interlokutor:

Breacher?

The Breacher:

She is speaking truthfully.

The Interlokutor:

Any attempt to leave Blue Tier will be treated as a direct violation against Cadence Major and its denizens, and dealt with accordingly.

Atia:

Accordingly?

The Interlokutor:

With the maximum possible force inside the sphere of appropriate ethical action.

Atia:

I see.

The Interlokutor:

You were, at one time, a horologist?

Atia:

Second only to the Cadence chief horologist, yes.

The Interlokutor:

It is my duty to reconstruct your path from a respected and vital functionary to Cadence renegade, and the factors that led to this shift in your thinking. Please describe your work in horologiks.

Atia:

It was my duty to measure time precisely and build systems to do it. I used Erde-Outside as a watermark for the passage of time.

The Interlokutor:

And this is how you became interested in Erde historiks?

Atia:

Partly. I had a few meckanikals set up time measurement equipment outside of the Cadence. They were very simple machines, but they did their work well. The images they relayed back were phenomenal. Skies bluer than any shade I have seen within the Cadence, valleys of rusting reds and gem stones, the occasional ningen ruin in the distance. It seemed strange to me that our history lay out there, as did the billions of skeletons of our ancestors. I wanted to to know more of the place, of the people who had lived there.

The Interlokutor:

Your consider ningen history to be our history also then?

Atia:

Of course. Without them the Cadence wouldn’t eksist.

The Interlokutor:

They were reliant on bacteria. Are germs a focus of your historical interest too?

Atia:

You’re splitting hairs.

The Interlokutor:

A quaint phrase. Nevertheless, this interest in ningen history is the reason you became an eccentric?

Atia:

I don’t consider myself an eccentric.

The Interlokutor:

Would it be fair to say that this was the reason you began to behave in fashion unusual for denizens then?

Atia:

Yes.

The Interlokutor:

Very well. We will operate chronologically, beginning with the moment at which the thought of the transgression first occurred to you, and work forward in an attempt to ascertain your motives. We will then examine how exactly you were able to gain access to the deep histories in an attempt to stop the same kind of incident occurring again in future.

Atia:

You’re not full selfsenses are you?

The Interlokutor:

The Breacher can be considered semi-sentient, depending on one’s definition. This is unimportant as far as the investigation is concerned.

Atia:

I think it’s extremely important. You expect me to just divulge my life’s details to little more than maintenance constructs?

The Interlokutor:

I assure you that the Breacher is considerably more than a maintenance construct.

Atia:

But you’re not a denizen?

The Interlokutor:

I have a full and operational selfsense. I can’t supply further details at this point.

Atia:

Doesn’t look the case from here. You don’t blink, for one thing.

The Interlokutor:

As I have said, this mode of eksist is something of a foreign one. We have gone to great pains to represent as ningen-ersatz so as to encourage a high degree of comfort in your interaction with us. Even so, certain physical details may have been omitted or misinterpreted.

Atia:

And your hands, they -

The Breacher:

She is merely trying to waste time.

Atia:

Marvelous work. If there’s an official record, I would like it noted that this is a blatant invasion of my selfsense autonomy, having this
head invader
here.

The Interlokutor:

I apologise if the notion is uncomfortable but the Breacher is necessary at this time. He attends only those investigations involving a denizen prone to obfuscation or outright deception.

Atia:

That doesn’t sound like a fair appraisal of me.

The Interlokutor:

The chief archivist was under the impression that you were conducting historiks research. You were in fact collecting documents to incite a rebellion. This was a deceptive effort on your part. Ergo, you are a denizen prone to deception.
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