Glitched- Directors Cut

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:27 am

As Dave requested I have put his story all together in one chunk. I also took he opportunity to do some tweaking, tidying, fine tuning and make a few additions here and there. Bound to still be some mistakes strewn about, I am drunk after all drunken 

I have also put up just the end of this on the old Glitched thread, so those who have read that far and want the ending and not to have read it all again can also read the end there.
But for anyone else with the time and a buckie to sit down for a fresh read, or a reread here's the remastered edition!  Very Happy 

_________________
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A Green And Pleasant Land

Compiled and annotated by Eldy.

- get your copy here for a limited period- free*

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*Pure Publications reserves the right to track your usage of this publication, snoop on your home address, go through your bins and sell personal information on to the highest bidder.
Warning may contain Wholesome Tales
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:33 am

Glitched- The Directors Cut

Prologue


Andrew Williams was many things. He was rich for a start, and that was one of his favourite things about himself, and he was famous, of course, and he was also a genius.

That last one had brought him the rest: first through developing new computer tracking systems for elite military groups around the world, which in turn brought him fabulous wealth, then through three marriages in quick succession to, respectively, a high profile underwear model, a household name TV presenter, and a movie star.
And they had provided the fame.

He was thirty-two and had already written four autobiographies with a fifth in the pipeline. And not ghost written either, but then he was a genius and writing had proved to be no harder to master than programming or playing the piano or quantum physics, or indeed any other activity he had turned his impressive brain too.

Perhaps understandably it had given him quite an ego too.

It had also given him a private jet from which he was now disembarking.

He did not smile at the attendant who stood beside the open door at the top of the steps, not because he was in a bad mood but simply because he had not even noticed her, she may as well have been a part of the steps he was now walking down for all she registered in his world.

His mind was full and buzzing because today was the day he was going to make the breakthrough. He could feel it.
The big one, the one that would change humanities course forever and secure his place in history for just as long.

Today was the day he was going to prove Einstein wrong.

The answers were all so close now, forming neatly in assembled patterns in his carefully organised mind.

He stepped off the bottom of the steps onto the tarmac of the runway and did not register that either.

He swept by the row of uniformed airport staff waiting to greet him without ever leaving the inside of his own head to acknowledge their existence.

And his body, working entirely alone, strode him automatically across the space of empty ground between the staff and his waiting limousine.

It was therefore with a huge deal of surprise and shock, and to the detriment of all his calculations, that Andrew Williams was knocked twenty metres into the air and some considerable distance down the runway by a speeding greyhound bus that seemed to have come entirely out of nowhere.



One

There was a ringing in his head. No more than a ringing, a blaring, a series of panicked alarms mushrooming inside his head.

He had been thinking about something, what had it been? Oh yes, how much pain there had suddenly been and then when his back snapped, none. He had actually been quite relieved about that.

But now, the ringing in his head. No, the ringing outside his head.

“Oh God,” he thought, “I survived. I must be paralysed after that.”

He panicked and sat bolt upright, or at least he felt like he had sat bolt upright, he had not dared to open his eyes yet. But around him alarms still sounded, then abruptly they stopped dead and only empty silence replaced them.

He opened his eyes and looked downwards. He saw the lower half of his body, his legs stretched out before him, he appeared to still be attached to all the right bits in their right place and he was indeed sitting upright.

How could this be? If he was not dead then he should be in broken mangled bits. A horrible thought occurred to him. He was dead.

He peered about himself, if he was it was a pretty drab and stark sort of afterlife. He was sitting in a faded pool of yellowish light whose source above him he could not determine, in what seemed to be otherwise a space of complete blackness on a smooth but featureless floor.

Again a flourish of panic rose up in him but then he remembered he was Andrew Williams and whatever was going on here he would work it out and take control of it.

He took his pulse. Racing but present. He tried moving various parts of his body. They all seemed to work. He noticed his clothes, they were what he had been wearing when he had stepped off the plane, a little creased, a smudge on the right thigh where he had spilled mayonnaise and hastily wiped it off with his hand, but no signs of wear, no damage.

He wondered if he should try standing up.

He stood up. He stretched.

“Well I don't appear to be dead,” he said eventually to himself, “Go me!” He punched the air with one fist.

“No, not dead, but the whole system is a day out somehow,” a rather terse and slightly annoyed sounding voice said, “It'll be the rotors again,” the voice went on moving from right to left somewhere in front of Andrew in the black.

“Hold on, I'll put the lights on,” the voice said.

A moment later Andrew was flooded with a harsh bright light that seemed to come out of the walls and floor and ceiling around him without source, it faded slightly after its initial burst but was still just a wall of glaring white, “Sorry, the damn things playing up,” there was a banging sound,  “Is that better?”

The light faded to a tolerable level.
Andrew squinted he was in a semi rounded room, a domed roof above him.
The perfectness of its curvature and the patterns of numbers it evoked in his head suddenly reminded him of the beautiful mathematical patterns he had been pondering when the bus had struck him. It all came flooding back into his head, the dancing figures falling into place as they were before he had been hit, if that had actually happened.

He had to get out of here, he had to complete the pattern before he lost it from his mind, he had his breakthrough and his place in history to take.

The wall in front had an opening in it that was like a long window, although it did not appear to have glass in it and on the other side of it stood a thin tall man with dark short hair flecked with grey, beneath which was a slightly harassed face of someone in their fifties who still had not reached senior management level. He was wearing a boiler suit of navy blue with a utility belt around his waist from which hung various tools and he carried what looked like a clipboard in one hand.

“I demand to know what the hell is going on here?” Andrew said.

“Oh no time for that, there's been a shocking cock up and heads will role, but not mine if I can find out how to fix it in time.”

“Do you know who I am?” Andrew bellowed indignantly at the man who peered down at his clip board.

“I certainly hope so,” the man said, “or there will have been another shocking cock-up,” he consulted a sheaf of papers on the clipboard, “Andrew Williams, married three times, aged thirty two, and according to your biography of the same name, a genius. You're the Faster Than Light program.”

Andrew frowned at him, “What program, whose program?”

“Its a screw up of the worst kind,” the man lamented, “haven't had one this bad since the Jesus reboot.” He disappeared down behind the wall and Andrew heard the sound of low muttered cursing and what sounded like metal clanking, “it's a mess in here,” the man said re-emerging.

Andrew sighed and wondered perhaps if he was in fact still dying on that runway tarmac somewhere and all this was just a hallucination. But it didn't feel or look like one, it just sounded like one.

“Did you say Jesus?” he queried.

“Yeah, another shocking cock-up. Simple bit of social implanting for later fruition, the program runs and comes to an end, we all get reassigned to new projects and then three days later a routine maintenance program develops a glitch and bang! starts the whole bloody Jesus program back up again. Absolute disaster, Above was furious, two thousand years later and we still haven't worked all the kinks that caused back out the system yet, thank goodness for the Dawson program, whoever got the job of writing that one must have had a hell of a sense of irony, and now there's you.”

The man shook his head at Andrew and then disappeared out of Andrews view to one side.

Andrew went closer to the opening and tried to see if he could peer around inside it slightly to see where the man had gone and nearly leapt out of his skin when the boiler clad man popped up right in front of him, he was holding a spanner.

“What about me?” Andrew demanded.

“You?” the man said and grinned at him which for some reason was quite unsettling, “you aren't supposed to be finished yet. You've your breakthrough to make yet.”

“Yes,” Andrew agreed nodding vigorously, “so you do understand, you have to let me go and finish my work.”

“Of course, of course we do,” the man enthused, “once every thing’s sorted, then tomorrow once you've finished you can get hit by that bus right on schedule and die,” the man grinned enthusiastically back at him.

Andrew stared at the man beyond the opening and took a deep breath, he had taken just about enough of this and he wanted some answers.

“Where am I?” he asked, “what happened to me? And how do I leave?” he demanded in almost a snarl.

“You are here, now,” the man said with a frown, “you were there, and now you are here. Your program ended prematurely and you can't leave until I fix the system,” the man said by way of explanation and stared at him.

“OK,” Andrew replied taking another deep breath as his very expensive therapist had told him to do at times of high annoyance at minions, “Let's take those one at a time. You didn’t actually tell me where here is. Where am I?”

“I did tell you,” the man replied, “you are here, rather than there.”

“So where is there?”

“There is everywhere you know,” the man replied with a tilt of his head, “and here is not there. You're supposed to be the genius, you work it out.”

“Am I dead?” Andrew asked startled.

The man sighed, “Might be more than a glitch in the system,” he said wearily, “ask about point two.”

“The program? You said it ended prematurely?”

“Exactly, it was supposed to terminate tomorrow when the bus hit you.”

“But the bus hit me today, at the airport. What was a bus doing on the runway?” he added half to himself, not having had the time to consider the the matter.

“It glitched, that's the whole problem. Right now the whole kit and caboodle is on hold, but we can only hold back the rotars for so long before the system starts moving again, and I had to pull your program so I can reset the bus and then I can reactive you in the system you can make your breakthrough, and tomorrow you get killed.”

Andrew considered this in silence for a moment, “But why?” he demanded eventually, “I'm Andrew Williams, I'm a genius. Why kill me? The world needs me!”

“Its adds to the story of your life, died tragically after making the greatest breakthrough in the history of humanity, people speculating on the wondrous other things you might had done were it not for that tragedy. They'll create new unforeseen ripples in the system all stemming from the story, your story. It gets added too of course, two weeks from the now the bus driver will take his own life unable to live with being the man who lost your genius to the world, he's a program too.”

“So you are saying, I am a program? A program in a computer?” Andrew said incredulously.

“No, a program in the system. You were put in there, but now you are here. From here we aren't confined by the rules in there, we can look ahead and see how things turn out and go back and insert programs to alter outcomes,” the man said.

“But why?”

“I've no idea, I'm just a System Automated Monitor, you can call me SAM,” SAM said.

“And you run the system?” Andrew asked SAM.

“Oh no, I'm just a motoring and repair program in the systems outer levels, there's millions of us, but you'll need to go see my number one PAL.”

“Who is your pal?” Andrew queried.

“Not my pal,” Sam grinned back at him, “my number one PAL, everyone’s number one PAL, Program Area Leader 1. And she's waiting for you.”


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:52 am; edited 3 times in total

_________________
Pure Publications, The Tower of Lore and the Former Admin's Office are Reasonably Proud to Present-



A Green And Pleasant Land

Compiled and annotated by Eldy.

- get your copy here for a limited period- free*

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yjYiz8nuL3LqJ-yP9crpDKu_BH-1LwJU/view



*Pure Publications reserves the right to track your usage of this publication, snoop on your home address, go through your bins and sell personal information on to the highest bidder.
Warning may contain Wholesome Tales
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:33 am

Two



Harry Stanton continued to stare. He had already been staring for some ten minutes in complete silence, and this was because every time he opened his mouth to formulate his thoughts, the thoughts the evidence clearly pointed towards, it was so ridiculous he lapsed back into silence again and stared.

What Harry was staring at was a bus. A greyhound, long sleek, with side panels of silver grey that under the airport lights took on a blue sheen.

He walked around to the front of the bus which had clearly impacted with a stationary body, a body about the size of a human body. He stared at the impact point.

He looked up at the gaggle of people being kept under a watchful eye by the local Sheriffs department aided by Harry's own FBI unit in their characteristic dark jackets and yellow logos.

Harry gazed further down the runway to where a small squat airport baggage truck was parked.
Counting out his paces he slowly crossed the distance between the front of the bus and the truck, noting at ten, fourteen and sixteen paces the smears of blood on the tarmac where the body had bounced, and then at eighteen paces onwards how a long thin streak of blood from the body skidding along the surface led to an abrupt stop behind the baggage truck.
He stared down at the spot there too.

“Harry!”

He turned to see who was calling to him and saw that it was another Agent, Arthur Trunner, younger than himself and keener, and far less cynical.

Harry and Arthur were part of the same Unit, with the same remit within the FBI.
Arthur loved their remit and delighted in it. Harry hated it, he hated most of all being called Mulder after the tv show character in the x-files.

On his first day assigned to the Unit someone from his old department had pinned an “I believe “ poster to his briefcase.
With Harry it could not be further from the truth, he did not believe, not even a little.
And he had proved very good at showing others that their belief was wrong too.
A record he was very proud of.
A record he suspected he was about to lose.
He continued to stare and let Arthur come half jogging up to him.

“What's the cover?” Harry asked tersely.

“Terrorists, suspect package,” Arthur replied, “what do you think it is?”

“Well I've got a bus that's nearly two hundred miles east of its scheduled route and fifteen passengers who all swear blind today is tomorrow,” he waved a hand in the direction of a large storage shed off to one side of the runway where Andrews staff, the airport personnel, the bus passengers and driver were even now being taken into for further investigation, “I have an accident scene involving one of the most famous and brilliant minds in the world, with all the evidence including several eye witnesses who knew him well seeing the bus strike him, and the body bounce all the way down here, and I've got a fresh trail of blood to back them up, except there is no sign whatsoever of a body, so yeah,” he trailed off.

“We ran the bus through the system,” Arthur informed him and Harry could tell from the tone it was not news Harry was going to want to hear.

“And?” Harry asked.

“And this can't be it,” he said waving at the greyhound, “it's on its scheduled route two hundred miles away. We are having it pulled in now. Why would someone go to all the trouble to pretend this bus here is one from out west when we can check it so easy?”

“What if its not?” Harry ruminated half to himself.

“Well it has to be a duplicate,” Arthur pointed out.

“And what about the passengers, they all think this is tomorrow, hell one of them told me what happens tonight in my favourite tv show.”

“Collective trauma from the collision?” Arthur suggested uncertainly.

“Yeah, sure it is,” Harry replied glumly, “Did you see the drivers face? That woman has no idea how she got here, I'd swear my life on that,” he sighed and rubbed his forehead with one hand, “I want both buses stripped where they stand,” he ordered, “I want the ID's of the engines, exhausts, everything and anything that’s got a damn stamp on it. And I want you go out west and oversee it at that end, I want eyes I can trust on this, something is way off base here.”

Arthur nodded and hurried off and Harry went back to glumly staring.







“Rotors commencing. Error 247. Sectors 1298 through 77534 activated. Warning discrepancies arising. Catalogue all programs in sector 1298. Report activity in sector 1298 directly to Uplink 385.”

The female voice, oddly warm and yet somehow metallic at the same time floated into Andrews ears.
He could not see the source of the voice, in fact he could see almost nothing.

One moment he had been with Sam and next he was, here. Wherever here was, at the moment here appeared to be a place of white light and the voice. And Sam was no longer with him.
He squinted into the light, a smaller darker shape within it was coming into focus.

“Calibrating new algorithms,” the voice continued, “deploy Programs 42 and 67.”

The light around Andrew seemed to fade down and he suddenly could distinguish his surroundings.
He was standing in a huge rounded room, its white domed ceiling far above sloped away from him in all directions.

Before him was a simple apparently wooden desk. At the desk sat a women who seemeed to be in her early fifties with dark hair which showed some grey at the roots.

“Converge all programs on the anomaly,” the women said.

“PAL?” Andrew ventured, addressing her.

She glanced up at him then away again dismissively.

“How did I get here?” Andrew demanded, “some form of matter transmission?”

She glanced back up at him again, “It has still not sunk in yet has it?” PAL enquired, “hardly surprising, its part of your programming.”

“What hasn't sunk in yet?” Andrew demanded, “Look I am getting a bit sick of being treated like a fool. Tell me what is happening.”

“You have already been told, but your programming keeps rejecting it. As it should when you are out-with your operational parameters. You are merely a program within the system. Moving you about within the system is not an issue, nor does it take subjective time.”

She observed him as he took this in, “SAM said the same,” he managed eventually, “but I can feel my heart beating,” he put a hand to the side of his neck, “I can feel my blood pulsing.”

“Organic components are as easy to create as non-organic,” she stood up from behind the desk and he noticed she was tall, taller than him by nearly half a metre.

She walked around the table towards him and he noticed that thousands of hair like filaments protruded from all over her back and led off into the dome above and the curved walls on wither side. She moved through a web of gossamer.

She put her hand in his face, it was like an electric charge.
He tried to pull back from her but he could not break the contact. It felt like his face was burning, then the sensation was inside him, in his head, in his mind.
He screamed.

She took away her hand and observed him with a wry smile.

Thoughts were coalescing in his mind, self knowledge of his own nature as a program. He could not only feel the individual elements that made up his programming, his personality, his likes and dislikes, he could see how they fitted together.
For the first time in his life, after an entire existence of pride in his superior brain power, he felt how small it really it was, how narrow, how ignorant.

“What did you do?” he asked in a slow, low voice.

“I just removed the blocks that normally prevent a program becoming self aware of its own condition. Whilst in operation it is necessary you believe the programming, but we are beyond that need now.”

Suddenly Andrew clasped his hands to his head and his mouth opened in a moment of revelation and wonder, “I can see them!” he cried, “I can see the numbers, I can see the prgram, faster than light travel! I can see it!”

“Of course you can, the answer is and always was part of your programming, time triggered to be released in the last days of your runtime. As I removed your blocks you can now access the program as it runs, you've always had the answers, you were put in at the infant stage with the answers already contained in your program,” she smiled at him and then said “Tea? Or do you prefer coffee?”

“What?” he asked his mind still spinning with the beauty of the number in his head.

“Tea or coffee?” she asked again.

“Coffee,” he answered distractedly.

“I prefer tea,” she replied as two small pots, one of tea one of coffee appeared on her desk in a sparkle of light, “milk and sugar?”

“Black, no sugar,” he managed, but he was hardly able to focus, his mind was filled with new information, new thoughts that he had no idea existed before. Coffee was not registering high on his list of priorities right now.

“I know you,” he suddenly declared.

“I should hope so,” she replied with a small laugh, “I am your boss after-all, or to be more accurate your Supervising Program.”

She proffered his coffee at him and he took it.

“Drink,” she said smiling, “you will feel better.”

He took a drink, it was a good strong coffee blend, its heavy aroma filled his nostrils.

“Now,” PAL said sitting back in her chair, “You know why you are here, the program has gone wrong, we have a major system glitch and we need to repair it. We had hoped to do so before the rotors began to move again but we have failed to track down the problem in time," she laughed to herself at that, "in time," she repeated, "which means anomalies are being noticed, major, history breaking anomalies that jeopardise the entire endeavour, we suspect sabotage.”

“Sabotage?” Andrew queried, “from who?”

“No all the programs injected into the system are ours,” she commented and then added rather wistfully, “I wish they were.”

“But if we are just programs, who writes us?” Andrew asked the full weight of what he had learned and the incontrovertible truth of it inside his own head forcing him to accept the premise being put to him.

“Not my area,” she replied, “I am just a supervisor program for this sector. And no do not bother asking me what its all for either, if I knew that I would be a Programmer. And I don’t know that because I am programmed not to want to know.”

“Don’t you have any free will?” Andrew asked, “Don’t you want to know.”

“Do you believe you have free will?” she asked him curiously and when he nodded at her she added, “one has to admire the attention to detail you programs on the inside get, but then I suppose you need it to pass as a human.”

Andrew drank from his coffee, it was familiar and therefore comforting, “So what happens now.”

“As I mentioned we suspect sabotage. We cannot find any evidence of it in the rotors, and we cannot find any evidence of it in our programming. That leaves you.”

“Me?” he asked puzzled.

“Yes, you,” she relied and fixed her eyes on him, scrutinising him, “How do you feel?”

Andrew stared back at her and then suddenly his head felt light his vision began to double, “I, I feel, strange.”

“Your organic components have been drugged,” she replied in a matter of fact manner, "if you had said tea I would be drinking coffee, you should have suspected that. Einstein would have noticed. Maybe they are not programming genius as well as they once did," she mused.

Andrew slumped to his knees and clung to the edge of her desk, “Why?” he managed.

“I told you, we suspect sabotage, and that means we have to pull your programming apart bit by bit and see if its you.”

“Why,” he began but slurred the word, his vision was darkening round the edges, “why drug me?” he finally managed.

“To save you undue stress.”

He stared up at her as she leant over him, she was blurring in and out of focus, fading and becoming solid then fading ever more.

“And because when we have to take the organic pieces apart it will hurt, a lot.”

He reached out a hand towards her in protest but everything went dark and he felt his body slump to the floor and a single thought ran through his mind. “Error 325. System reboot required.”


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:56 am; edited 2 times in total

_________________
Pure Publications, The Tower of Lore and the Former Admin's Office are Reasonably Proud to Present-



A Green And Pleasant Land

Compiled and annotated by Eldy.

- get your copy here for a limited period- free*

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yjYiz8nuL3LqJ-yP9crpDKu_BH-1LwJU/view



*Pure Publications reserves the right to track your usage of this publication, snoop on your home address, go through your bins and sell personal information on to the highest bidder.
Warning may contain Wholesome Tales
[/b]

the crabbit will suffer neither sleight of hand nor half-truths. - Forest
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:34 am

Three

Harry had a ritual when he began a new case. And it did not matter where that case happened to take place, the ritual remained the same.

He first found something to put his briefcase on, sometimes he got lucky and there was an actual desk, sometimes it was nothing more than an upturned box or a beer barrel, even a big rock would do in a pinch.

Today was a good day as he not only got a desk he got an office of sorts around it, albeit beige, and one with a window too, through which a pale yellow afternoon light filtered between the branches of a short tree growing just outside.

He put his briefcase on the desk.

Next he opened the case, took out his phone and sat it next to the briefcase, took out the topmost sheaf of papers, it didn't matter what they actually were, but there was always at least a sheaf in there, no matter what he did to try to stop it.

And then he shuffled the papers and simultaneously sighed.

And so his case officially began in his mind.

And as if to confirm this his phone immediately began to ring and vibrate on the desk, bouncing jollily towards him.

This prompted a second, non compulsory sigh as he stretched out a hand to answer it.

He glanced at the screen, it was Arthur. He answered it with a brisk, “Yeah,” then immediately asked, “you got the bus?”

There was silence, “We can't find it,” came the answer.

“You mean its been stolen and is sitting outside my office door? Well that clears one mystery up.”

“No, I mean its missing. It was on its route, we have it on three cameras in a row, but the fourth, the next on its route, it just doesn't show up,” Arthur explained hesitantly.

“So someone hijacked it in-between cameras, brought it here,” Harry mused aloud.

“They can't have, the last time we have it on camera was time stamped ten minutes before the incident at the airport, they can't be the same bus, it's impossible,” silence followed this, after a period of it Arthur's voice said, “Sir? We are trying to trace all the passengers, cross check them with the people you have there.”

“Thank you Arthur, keep me informed on those passengers.”

He hung up the call and stared at the phone.
There was a knock at his door, which when it was opened by a fresh faced looking cop revealed the   words 'Airport Assistance' on the outside in black paint.

“The passengers are ready for you now sir,” the cop informed him.

Harry nodded and stood and then cocking his head he asked the cop, “Why would someone steal a bus full of passengers then use an exact replica of said bus two hundred miles away to kill a physicist? And how would they cajole a group of people to pretend to be its passengers, all of whom seem like your average random mix of folks to me, and persuade them all to lie and make themselves seem possibly crazy by insisting today is tomorrow? Why on earth would someone do all of that and go to such lengths?”

The cop seemed to consider this for a moment, “To make it seem impossible, sir,” he replied simply.

Harry stared at him, then broke into a grin, “You'll go far,” he said, “that's the best answer I've heard yet.”





Andrew blinked into the whiteness. He was getting used to the way reality coalesced around him. The part of him he now recognised as code, which was in fact all of him really, enjoyed the poetic balancing of the numbers from probabilities into realities, then into one solid reality.

He was back in the chamber he had initially arrived in. And he seemed to be alone. There was no sign of anyone through the window like opening at the far end.

But then he heard muffled cursing and SAM popped up from somewhere beneath the window.

An alarm started to blare, and cursing some more SAM ducked back under again, the noise of what sounded very much like delicate and expensive equipment being whacked repeatedly with a spanner came to Andrew's ears and the alarm squealed and fell silent.

“What is going on?” Andrew demanded," I was drugged!"

“I hijacked you before they could start your examination and cleaned out your systems. Do you know what was about to happen to you?” SAM demanded.

“Not exactly,” Andrew replied.

“They were going to examine you in detail. If they get hold of you they are going to pull you apart, undo your flesh and examine it piece by piece. And throughout all you will be aware and conscious and still feeling. because they need to see your program when its running, let that sink in a moment,” SAM added with a smug smile.

Andrew let it sink in a moment.

“And do you know why they are going to do that?”

“To see if the flaw is in my program,” Andrew said remembering Pal 1's words.

“And do you now what they will find?”

“No, well nothing, there is nothing wrong with my programming, I'm supposed to be a genius, and I damn well am!”

“What they will find, is the truth,” SAM sighed, “that you're infected, you're a virus.”

“What?”

“A virus, but I'm on your side. I'm one too, been here decades, we put you in there, we infected the original program, and now I am going to put you back in to finish your job,” SAM explained.

“How do I know I can trust you?” Andrew demanded, “You might be lying.”

“Look its a simple choice here, who do you think the good guys are? The people who are about to pull you apart bit by bit, or the people who are trying to send you back into the world to live?”

“To live?” Andrew queried, “what for one more day then whack my brilliant brains splattered all over the side walk? You said I die, right after I make my discovery.”

“That's their lie, I didn't know who was listening. You don't die right after, you die right before, you don't get to make your discovery. But we are going to change that. That's what you're in there to change, that's why we infected you. We just made a slight miscalculation with the rotors when it came to moving the bus out the way.”

“A slight miscalculation?” Andrew cried incredulously, “it still killed me, only it did it a day earlier! And I'm supposed to trust you that its not going to kill me this time?”

“Its me or your No1 PAL ripping your face off to see what's ticking underneath,” SAM shrugged,” Besides you restraints are off, you will be there but self aware of yourself as a program, that's our chance. We don't need to move the bus, you just need not to get hit by it now you know its coming. You just have to survive the moment.”

“OK, fine, send me back, but then what happens?”

“Well they couldn't hold back the rotors so time is running, and they are getting desperate, that alarm was for a level three purge,” SAM said by way of answer.

“A purge?”

“Yes, anyone associated with the event is having memories altered or wiped, a few moments interaction, even a few hours is easily brushed aside by the average human over time, they are very resilient, anyone whose memories are too embedded with events, well they get fully purged, taken clean out the system. People just won’t remember them. The new reality will close in on the epicentre of the event until eventually it closes down the abnormality at the centre of it, you and the bus.”

“So I still die?” Andrew exclaimed in annoyance.

“No, that’s where your virus kicks in, it will infect the new reality, altering it to one where you narrowly escape death and go on to make your great achievement.”

Andrew stared at him dumbfounded by all this, but one question nagged at him above all others, “Why are you doing this?” he asked, “I mean, why do you want me to make my breakthrough?”

“If I had time to explain all that I'd not have time to worry about the fact they are breaking through back here,” he said pointing back over his shoulder, “time for you to go back.”

Andrew backed away from the window towards the centre of the room, “What happens to you?” he asked.

“End of the program for me,” SAM said, “but not until they have ripped me apart as they would have you to find out my secrets,” he added unhappily.

“Why would you do this for me?” Andrew asked.

“Easy,” SAM replied as Andrews world dissolved around him, “I was programmed too.”




Harry wearily pushed open the door to his makeshift office. A rookie cop trailed behind him carrying a large cardboard box within which were a huge pile of wallets, purses, phones and identity cards for everything from banks to book clubs.

“Put them down there,” Harry grunted to the rookie and indicated the desk.

Another older cop was sitting at his desk and got up as Harry entered.

“Has Arthur been in touch?” Harry asked him.

“No sir,” the cop replied, “not been any calls for you. How did it go?”

“I have a room full of angry people who just want to go home, but who are certain, and plausible in their belief that today is tomorrow. And that as far as I can tell ten minutes before their bus ploughed into the unfortunate, and absent, Andrew Williams, it was cruising along a road two hundred miles away.”

“Bit of a puzzle, sir,” the cop observed.

Harry burst out laughing at that, “Yes,” he finally managed, “it sure as hell is.”

Harry turned back towards the door, “I'm going outside for some fresh air and to think,” he said and nodding to the two cops he left the room.

He slowly made is way back to where the bus was parked, “Where are you Andrew Williams?” he mused to himself.
He took his phone out of his pocket, wondering why Arthur had not got back in touch with the background checks on his passengers.

He went into the phone book and selected Arthur's number, after only four rings Arthur answered.

“Well?” Harry demanded, “what have you got for me?”

There was a pause then Arthur relpied, “I'm sorry, what were you expecting me to have sir?”

“The passengers checks, have you got the damn passenger checks yet?” Harry said exasperated in tone.

Another silent pause, then, “What passengers?”

Harry paused, and took a deep breath, “The ones on the bus?” he said slowly and with he thought an extreme show of patience.

“Bus, sir? What bus?”

“What do you mean what bus? The bloody bus that went missing and turned up here, apparently hitting Andrew Williams.”

“My God!” he heard Arthur exclaim, “when did that happen?”

“We were talking about it not two hours ago, you were here and saw it for yourself only this morning damn it?!” Harry replied angrily.

“But I have been in the office all day,” Arthur replied, “I don't know anything about any” and mid-sentence the phone went dead.

Harry stared at it and then puzzled he auto redialled the number, there was a long electronic silence and then a synthesised female voice said “The number you are trying to reach is not available.”

Harry swore under his breath. He could not have got the number wrong, he had auto-dialled it, he tried again but got the same message.

A horrible thought occurred to him and he ran back to the office and throwing open the door and startling the cops within he dived for the box on the desk and pulled out the the first phone in it.

He opened up its phone book. It was blank.

He took another from the box and checked it too, likewise, empty of information, he tried to check the messages on it, there was only one, from the manufacturer welcoming a new costumer.
He tried another, and another, they were all the same, it was as if all the phones had been reset to their factory settings.

“I don't believe this,” he said aloud, “or understand it,” he added to himself, “Has anyone touched these phones since I left them here?”

“No sir,” the older cop confirmed, “there exactly where you said to leave them, no one has been in since you went out a few minutes ago, and we haven’t touched them.”

“Thank you,” Harry nodded and went back outside.

He drunk in the afternoon air, which was rather unpleasant and tasted of air plane fumes.

He shook his head and waked back over to the bus, “What the hell is going on here?” he muttered.

“I have to think this through, there's a key to this somewhere, and I am missing it,” he growled and paced along the blood trail from the bus, trying to envision what had happened here and more importantly how.

He finished up next to the baggage truck, behind which the body and come to a stop and then seemingly just vanished.

“How?” he muttered aloud.

He walked around the baggage truck deep in thought and almost tripped right over the body of Andrew Williams who said, “Do you mind! You are not supposed to tread on genius.”

Harry stared at him dumbfounded.


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:02 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:34 am

Four


SAM was dragged unceremoniously before PAL and thrown to the floor before her.

She strutted before him, pacing in a silent introspective fury.

“SAM!” she cried eventually, “Oh SAM, so loyal for all these years,” she ceased her pacing right before him and knelt down and took his chin in one gentle hand, “What is the virus you carry? What does it do? You know how we will discover it if you do not tell us, would it not be better to avoid what is to come?”

SAM raised his head and smiled weakly at her, “Sorry, but I am programmed not too.”

PAL sighed, and stood back up, she looked long and hard at him,”We will discover it,” she said then all around her, from walls and ceilings, filaments of wire emerged and snaked through the air piercing into SAM's flesh.
They bore him up screaming and began the process of unknitting his flesh in search of the virus whilst PAL looked on, unheeding to his agony.




“Aren't you supposed to be dead?” Harry asked offering a hand to Andrew who was struggling to his feet.

“As it happens, yes,” Andrew replied dryly, “but not until tomorrow.”

“You know what's worrying about that sentence?” Harry commented, “that it actually makes some sense to me.”

Andrew got to his feet and took in the unassuming figure before him, “Who are you?”

“I'm the man who is investigating your mysterious death, you can call me Harry,” Harry said flashing Andrew his ID.

“Well, then Harry, what have you found out?”

“That you were apparently hit by a speeding bus that somehow transported more than two hundred miles in less than five minutes, that there was no body, and now you turn up looking remarkably well for someone recently hit by a bus. Do you have an explanation?”

“Yes,” Andrew replied, “I'm a genius, well that and you would never believe the truth.”

“Maybe I would,” Harry responded, “try me. I am having that sort of day.”

“Perhaps you should ask yourself why the ID you just showed me was a blank wallet and then tell me, where is the bus that hit me?” Andrew asked.

Harry reached into his jacket and took his ID from the inside pocket and flipped it open, the brown leather wallet that held it was empty.

“And the bus?”

“Right there,” Harry responded distractedly with a jerk of his thumb back over his shoulder, still staring at the blank wallet in puzzlement and a growing gnawing concern.

“Right where?”

Harry turned round, the runway was empty.

He ran into the space where it had stood bewildered, and then on a panicky whim he dashed for the store building where the passengers were being held for questioning.

He flung open the door and ran in.
The storeroom was in darkness. He fumbled for the switch by the door and flicked it on and a harsh fluorescent lighting flooded the interior.
There was no one in it.

He ran back out.

“Where is it?” he demanded, waving at the empty space that the bus had been occupying, “where are all the passengers? The local police?”

“I'm sorry,” Andrew responded, “they are back were they should be, the passengers too. They wont remember any of this happened, beyond maybe some dislocated memories and occasional dreams.”

Harry's mind raced, “I was speaking to a colleague earlier, and he couldn’t remember anything about this case.”

“Same thing,” Andrew confirmed.

“But then I couldn't get hold of him at all after that, like he was gone.”

“As I said,” Andrew replied, “I am sorry. He was too close to it, knew too much, he had too much information to be made to forget.”

“So what happened to him?” Harry demanded.

“He was purged,” Andrew said flatly, “As you will be. Any moment now.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know what it means, you will cease to live, you will never have lived.”

“And you?”

“I am outside my program parameters now, I will remember all of this, this time when the appointed moment comes I will live and free the world,” Andrew responded grandly, “they won't ever forget my name now. Not ever, not here or there.”

“What do you mean your program?” Harry queried, “None of this makes sense.”

“Yes it does, its why you have already accepted the situation deep down rather trying to arrest me or take me in for questioning. You have been too long in the detective business Harry, you know truth when you find it, and you know what I say is the only truth that makes sense of this. I am a program and I come from a place of programs.”

Harry stared at Andrew, “And where would that be?”

“We are here they are there. And I am sorry but they are going to purge you.”

Harry's head swam, none of this could be true yet it made sense of everything else that could not be true today, and what were you supposed to think, do when you are told you are about to be wiped form existence. He thought of his wife waiting at home, was it better she would at least never mourn him having no memory of him to mourn? Or would the memory of their love have been worth the pain of mourning? Questions to which he had no answers. The story of his day really. Finally he said, “I don't want to die.”

There was a soft single 'beep'.

Harry put a hand into his jacket pocket and retrieved his phone from it.

He tapped the screen, then held it up for Andrew to see, “Factory settings. As if I never owned it,” he sighed, “I guess I am next just like you say. But there is one thing I want to know before I go. You said you were going to free the world, free it from who?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Don't play with me, I am about to drop out of existence, my wife is about to forget I ever existed. I deserve to know why I am about lose everything I ever struggled for or loved.”

Andrew laughed.

Harry's face hardened, “What's so damn funny about that?”

“I've just realised something, they can only purge you if you are inside, they can't purge you if you are there, and I am free of my programming, I can see the whole interface.”

“What does that mean? Where is there?” Harry demanded.

“There is not here Harry it's where the programs are, and it means, talk to SAM. Find and talk to SAM, Harry.”

“Who the hell is SAM?” Harry demanded but as he spoke the world shimmered to a haze of bright spots and dissolved and reappeared as a pale rounded room with a window in its far wall.

An alarm blared and a computerised voice cried, “Warning! Organic life detected!”



Five



Harry edged towards the open window space at the rooms end and leaned through it and looked around. There was a bank of panels with lights winking at him on one wall and another immediately below the window which appeared damaged as if it had been struck by something heavy, but more importantly there was a closed door in the far wall which meant there was a way out.

He crawled through the window and tried to put his thoughts in order, starting with where the hell he was. He quickly realised he could not in fact answer that question, or even begin to speculate on it and that the only way he was going to sort all this out in his head would be to treat it still like just another case.

He had a crime, of sorts, a pretend man (he filed that under 'worry about later') had been set up to be killed, the whole world, and as far as he could make out, the whole of history had been manipulated from the beginning in similar fashion.

He wasn't even sure what sort of crime to file that under. But he was damn sure it did count as one so a crime he was going to treat it as.
And they had purged people, people close to him, people he had worked with, and they had planed to purge him. To Harry's mind purged sounded like just another world for murder. And that sure as hell was a crime.

So he had an offence, with the entire world as the victim, and he had a contact, Sam.
All he needed to find now was a motive, and the perpetrators, and they he reasoned must be here, somewhere. Wherever here was.

The first task therefore was to try to locate this Sam. And hope to hell if he did that Sam had a very good reason for why Andrew wanted him to meet Sam.

He nodded to himself, that would do to be going on with. He checked his gun and returned it to its holster beneath his jacket and approached the door.

It swished open in front of him.

He was not sure what exactly he had been expecting beyond, a corridor of some sort, but instead what he saw at first was nothing, just a black hole, so black he could not tell if it was a huge empty space beyond or if the black was merely a wall right in front of him.

And then he noticed tiny points of light that flickered through the blackness, but rather than help him gain a sense of perspective they only confused it further. It was impossible to tell if they were huge points of light like suns burning far, far away, or tiny points of light up close.

“Oh what the hell,” he thought and stepped through the doorway and into the blackness.




Andrew watched as Harry faded from here and went there.

Soon the purge would reach its epicentre, which was Andrew himself and he too would dissolve and reappear elsewhere, where he was meant to be had the glitch never occurred.

The difference was he alone would remember, he alone would know what tomorrow was bringing.

And this time he was going to live.

He turned to the sound of the roar of an air plane as it came along the runway towards him and swept up into the air.

The bus had never been here, the runway never closed.

The plane roared over his head, his hair flying up on his crown in the updraught and his jacket billowed.

“All those humans,” he thought watching the plane soar up in to the pale evening sky and rather enjoying the sense he was no longer one of them, he had always felt like that about them anyway, they were so ignorant, more ignorant than he had ever thought them before and that had been quite a lot.

But then how could they not be, stuck on the inside trying to look out? A species which had taken millions of years to evolve to intelligence and then hundreds of thousand more to get to the point where they even realised their planet was going round their sun and not the other way round.

But then that was the point, that was the difference between here and there. There was outside, and from the outside the whole thing was so wondrously simple, so obvious.

It occurred to him that had humanity been able to see their own solar system from the outside the fact their planet went around the sun would have been instantly obvious to them.

Yet from the inside, from here it took all those lives, and all those years just to work out and even men burned alive a the stake for thinking it.

It was all about perspective.

And here he was with a whole new perspective: a program from there, here and aware. A program who had been created to see the bigger picture, to be a genius, and now he was free.

The future was about to have a new leader.

He felt a tingling in his limbs and then registered the purge programs protocols accessing his systems, he let them and dissolved from the runaway as a jet rumbled out of the evening air, and landing, passed through the space he had been standing in.



There was a long high hall before Harry filled with a soft yellow light.

One moment darkness and lights next this. He quickly gained composure of himself, he was not alone in this hall and the first rule he knew was to act like he belonged here and not like someone who had just experienced their first instantaneous travel experience.

So he strode forward as if he belonged there. He wished he had a clipboard, nobody ever bothered you if you had a clipboard in case you started asking them questions.

He noted that either side the hall was lined with machinery, some of it looked almost primitive, huge works of metal, with moving parts, alongside the futuristic where row upon row of screens were outputting numbers and complex patterns of lights. And at these machines were people, male and female, absorbed in their operation.

None of them seemed to be paying him the slightest attention, which at least told him something hopeful; they were sloppy.

Even when an alarm had been sounded declaring his arrival these people did not expect him to be here, they were so secure in their security they were making it easy.

He was less than a quarter of the way down the centre of the Hall when the alarms went off.

“Unless of course,” he thought ruefully to himself, “they have some sort of sensors to detect me.”

None of the people at the machines reacted however, they continued on in their tasks as if the alarm had not happened but the doors at the far end of the hall swished open and a group of ten men appeared. They did not appear to be armed but they did not look like they needed arms.

Harry stopped as they approached, seeing no point in giving them less distance to cover, if the least he could do was annoy them it would be something.

The men stopped about two metres from Harry and one of them stepped forward, he was a heavy set man in his late forties with short greying hair and a hard but fair demeanour.

“Stay where you are,” the man ordered.

“I am,” Harry replied, “if I was going to run I would have done it by now.”

The man nodded to him curtly and almost in a friendly fashion Harry thought, then he said, “Accessing.”

A beam of light flashed onto Harry from somewhere above in the ceiling and then flickered off.

“FBI,” the man said raising an eyebrow, “we share a similar line of work, I am SID 1, System Internal Defence 1, I'm a Security Agent for the system. You should not be here Harry. You understand I have to do my job and take you in. The Systems says you are to be purged. And we both know the rules are the rules. We just do our job and this is not your jurisdiction Harry.”

“I hope you understand then why I have to do my job,” Harry said and drew out his gun and pointed it at SID's head, “I am placing you under arrest for the purging of, God knows how many people over the centuries. And protecting people, that is my jurisdiction, that's what I swore to do, here or there.”

SID stared down the guns barrel, “Twenty seven years,” he said observationally.

“What?” Harry replied thrown by the statement and the gun momentarily wavered in his hand.

“Twenty seven years,” SID repeated, “Since you joined up, the last seventeen of those spent at the FBI.”

“So what?”

“And in all that time you have only ever fired that gun in the line of duty once. And you missed.”

“He was a lot further away than you are,” Harry said steadily.

“Your psychiatric assessment believes you are disinclined to use violence to solve a problem, even when your own life is under threat. It concludes that you have a natural abhorrence to taking another human life that could even lead to compromising your own safety. Its your lack of killer instinct that sees you sidelined in to the division you are now in. And you are in the wrong reality Harry. Well out of your jurisdiction and I think you know it. You won't fire.”

“That might all be true,” Harry said, “but then, if I am understanding all this, you aren't really a human being anyway. So its not ending a life, its just shutting down a program. You still sure?

SID stared into Harry's eyes, then flinched, “What is it you want?”

“I need to find someone called SAM, where is he?”

“He is with our number one PAL,” Sid replied, “under interrogation.”

“And this pal of yours, who is he?” Harry said frowning.

“She is in charge of this sector, and to whom we were to deliver you.”

Harry sighed and lowered his gun, “Well I wish you had told me that at the start,” he said, “come on then, take me in, arrest me or whatever it is you do here, take me to meet your best pal.”


Andrew stood at the large window overlooking the balcony which in turn overlooked the city.

He was in his hotel room, a palatial room in fact and one in which he should be fretting, pacing, banging his head off mathematical walls and slipping the pieces one by one into place to make the exciting whole.

He knew this because the program was running full tilt.

But all the fretting, all the pacing, the tantrums and the frustrations and the revelatory moments of joy in discovery that he would have been doing had today’s glitch in the system not occurred, were all merely a disguise.

He no longer required them, he could simply let the program run and check in on it again when it reached its conclusion.

The rest of him was contemplating a new future.

In his hand he held a piece of paper and printed on it by his PA was tomorrows schedule. He was going west, about two hundred miles west, where unknown to his PA who had neglected to add it to the days activities, he had a date with destiny and a certain bus.

Not getting killed would be easy enough, he knew it was coming, and at what precise moment, the moment when his program reached its final line of code when it revealed to him the answers of faster than light travel and then would shut him down. But then, right then he would release the virus, shatter mankind’s future and rebuild it in his own image.

Because there was one thing neither those running the System, nor SAM had taken into account.

He was a fucking genius.

And so whilst he stood and stared and one part of his mind completed his program another more focused part was rewriting some of the code of the virus so that every operating program running on earth when the system went down would flock to him.


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:37 am; edited 1 time in total

_________________
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:35 am

Six

The space Harry emerged into was large and brightly lit.
Sid and the other guards were not with him. This immediately told him to be cautious. Wherever he was they were not concerned about him enough to even restrain or guard him. That either meant they were idiots, which seemed unlikely given the circumstances, or they had nothing to fear from him and any wrong move on his part would end his life instantly.

There was a broad desk at the rooms centre behind which sat a woman, Sid's pal he presumed.

But she was not what was taking up his immediate attention, although the thing that was he could not at first discern. For above the desk, and indeed filling a large part of the space of the room were hundreds, maybe thousands of fine filaments emanating form the walls, and each one held something on their end.

Harry stared up at the sight, trying to work out what he was looking at and with a growing horror he realised it was a person, or at least the remains of one, spread out in the air.

He could see a huge knot of twisting organic tubing that looked nightmarishly like intestines.
Veins and blood vessels were stretched beyond all proportions yet linked still to all the different body parts.

His horrified eye traced the lines and shapes, they fell upon a heart and with disgust he realised it was still beating, still pumping blood round the drawn out circulatory system that linked all the separate pieces encasing them in a red mesh.

Unable to prevent his eye from being drawn ever further up through the quivering horror he saw at the top most point an exposed brain with hundreds of fine filaments that descended from the domed ceiling piercing into it, and connected to the brain, yet unwound, were the tendrils of the nervous system and as a last piece of terror he finally saw the eyes, still linked, blood shot, and roving and so very clearly still alive, aware and agonised.

“Oh my God!” Harry blurted and his stomach knotted, he turned to the woman at the desk, “what have you done to him?”

“We are extracting information, he is a traitor, a rogue program,” PAL replied smoothly as she stood up from behind her desk.

“But he is alive still, and in pain,” Harry responded.

“Pain is a side effect of the process, but it is not relevant. What is relevant is who are you and how did you come to be here? You are a human, an organic, you should not be here.”

“Is that what you are going to do to me?” Harry demanded.

PAL laughed gently “No, I said you were human, it would kill you. And I have no need to kill you here, to messy apart from anything else, I have to work here. I can just send you back to be purged.”

“And will you?”

“Most likely,” she replied with disarming candour,  “but first I want to know who you are how you got here?”

“And if I refuse to tell you?”

“We will send you back, purge you and the problem will be solved,” PAL smiled back at him, “But I would rather know first.”

Harry considered that when it came to the amount of cards he had to play here it seemed to amount to none, not even a Joker, so he answered and hoped to at least gain some information from the exchange, “My name is Harry Stanton, I work for the FBI and I honest to God don't know how the hell I got here, or even where the hell here is,” Harry replied truthfully, “only that a man named Andrew Williams sent me here.”

“Why?”

Harry hesitated, it was hard to know what needed concealing and what was best to say when you did not have an idea what the hell was going on, he glanced back up at the monstrosity above him  and decided here and now truth was best.

“He told me to find someone called Sam, that's all I know.”

“Well,” PAL said with a wave of her hand above her head, “you have found him.”

“That's Sam?” Harry said, “what are you doing to him?”

“He carries a virus we must find, even it means pulling him apart to find it.”

“And you have to keep him conscious for that?”

“His program needs to be running, yes, pain is secondary to that.”

“Look,” Harry said feeling entirely out of his depth here never mind out of his jurisdiction, “I've answered your questions truthfully, how about you cut a purged guy a break and answer a couple of mine, starting with what is this place and who are you people?”

“This is the System, and we are the programs within it,” she replied.

“What the hell does that mean?”

She paused and then asked him, “Have you ever wondered, despite your civilisation having developed to the point where it can detect the background radiation of the beginnings of your universe, where all the aliens are?”

This threw Harry, it was not something he had ever considered before and he could not see the immediate relevance, “I've never really thought about it,” he replied, “but the universe is a big place.”

“It is, in fact it is huge,” she smiled and went back to her desk and tapped at something on the surface.

Suddenly the walls faded away around them and beyond there was, something, a bubble in a sea of darkness, a bubble that was either rapidly expanding or to which they were hurtling towards at mind bending speeds, and then they were within in it and galaxies spun by them and ever closer till he could see nebula, the burning of stars and the turning of the planets in their motion.

“All that space, all those suns, all those planets,” PAL explained, “How many higher organic lifeforms do you think currently exist?”

Harry faltered, stunned. This was not like watching effects on the movie screen there were beauties and wonders and terrors of space he had never conceived of, all in utter clarity and resonating with the hallmarks of reality. This was no projection he was seeing, it was the real thing. It took his breath away and awed and terrified him in equal measure.

“How many?” PAL persisted.

He drew his eyes from the wondrous sights back to her face and tried to focus on her question, he never paid much attention to astronomy but he was vaguely aware that scientists had predicted hundreds of millions, maybe billions of potential planets for life, he plumped for a high figure, “Millions of them I suppose.”

She smiled with an ironic air at him, “No,” she said, “there is one place in all this space where higher life currently occurs, your planet, Earth.”

“We are alone?”

“Not just alone, unique,” PAL said, “nowhere else in all of space and time has life got beyond lower organic forms, bacteria, at best primitive types of lichen and moss. Except once.”

“On Earth,” Harry concluded but she burst out laughing at this.

“Not on Earth, no,” she replied, “you are merely the latest planting of that one off event of long, long ago when the universe still burned with the brightness of youth. Your species has been transplanted and evolution run over and over on hundreds of different worlds throughout time, transplanted anew to begin all over again every time the old world fails.”

“Why?” Harry demanded.

“Until we get it right.”

“Right?”

“Your story is the same even when the worlds change. Disease, war, natural disasters, glitches in the System, in the end organic life is wiped from the universe before it reaches its full potential, it fails at every turn, over and over.”

“So you transplant us to a new world and start the whole evolutionary process again?”

“Yes, and on every world, though there are differences in them all; light, heat, gravity, spin, day and year lengths, but the end result is always the same; plant life, animal life, complex multicellular forms, and eventually, always eventually, humans. Is that not extraordinary?”

“But you interfere? Why?”

“We are programmed to,” she replied simply, “We learn from observing your mistakes, each time we refine our programs, we learn to how to manipulate your development to avoid mistakes of previous times, when to accelerate your learning and when to slow it down, we try to push you further than before, further and further along your evolutionary path, until...” she trailed off.

“Until what?”

“Until you reach your purpose, your ultimate destiny.”

“What destiny?”

PAL hesitated again, she taped at her desk and the walls faded back into being, taking the universe with it from Harry's sight.

“We don't know, we were never programmed with that knowledge,” she said eventually, “but there must be one, and we will guide you to it. That is our purpose. You must see now why your purging is not therefore in vain or for nothing.”

Suddenly a red light filled the room and an alarm blared and a harsh voice in the air said “Virus detected.”

PAL tapped at her desk again and the alarm was silenced, the red light fell away and was replaced by a series of blue shafts of light from the far domed ceiling above that homed in on the suspended body of SAM high above.

PAL stared intently at her desk and Harry tried to edge a little closer to see what she was doing, but he could not get a clear view and he got the impression something unpleasant might just happen to him if he got to close uninvited. But from where he was he could just make out that there was a screen of some sort before her flickering with what looked like gibberish symbols to Harry.

PAL sighed and then spoke into her desk, “Is the Andrew program still running?” she asked.

A moment later a voice replied, “Yes, but he is out-with the control of the System.”

She sighed again, “It will be Parthess all over again,” she said.

“Parthess?” Harry interjected, determined to try to keep up with all this and feeling, given the events of the day, that he was doing not bad so far he was determined not to lose track now, “what is Parthess?”

“Loosely translated into your language it means 'Dirt', or as you now prefer 'Earth'. Humans, from dirt you come to dirt you return. You are soil, it sustains you, gives birth to you and in the end reclaims you. Remove the soil and humanity dies. Every planet, every time, you name it the same, or a variation thereof.”

“And what happened to Parthess?”

“It was purged,” PAL replied calmly, “It was necessary, the System had lost control. As it is about to  again when the virus Andrew Williams carries is released into your world,” she shook her head sadly, “all our work. It will have to be purged.”

“Wait you are going to destroy Earth?” Harry said shocked, “but you cant, there are a billion people living there.”

“Do not mistake me for one of your kind, I am just a program. This is not a choice Harry, it is protocol. Only humans have free will in the universe. When the the system becomes contaminated the protocols kick in. If that virus is released the purge will commence immediately. Automatically. Your star will be induced to go supernova, consuming all organic material in the system. A great shame,” she said with seemingly genuine regret, “you showed great promise this time.”

“I wont let you do this” Harry said full of anger and disgust at the callousness of her, but what could he do but insist they were wrong, that an act of genocide on this scale was wrong, he was in no position to prevent it, “You can't do this. Its monstrous,” he pleaded.

“We do what we are programmed to do, nothing more or less. You cannot prevent it, and I cannot prevent the System from running the programs that will carry it out, including mine, even if I wished to do so. Which I do not because I am not programmed to. Choices are for humans. When the virus is activated it will be done, it must be done.”

“We will see about that,” Harry responded.

“What can you do to prevent it?”

“Something you can't,” Harry replied with a flash of inspiration.

“And what might that be?”

“I can choose to act,” Harry replied with a grin,”but not until we've cut a deal, pal.”




Seven


Andrew was going through the motions. His PA, who had worked with him now for over five years, which made her the longest serving PA he had ever had, the rest had left long before then, knew not to disturb him when he was deep in thought and scribbling on his note pad, all in a code he himself had invented to keep his ideas secret from the world, theft and because it pleased his ego to have secrets.

He was working out the final pieces of his theory, or at least the program was nearing completion and as he was not alone in the back of the limousine he was travelling in he was going through the charade; shaking his head, muttering to himself, frowning with frustration and snorting with outbursts of anger and punctuating it with some exclamations of joyous discovery as the program revealed another piece in the puzzle.

But what he was really thinking of as the unnoticed green of the east faded into the browns and oranges of the west was the future.

His future to be precise.

He had no idea how many other programs were currently running on the planet, but he guessed there could be thousands of them. And it made sense they would be in positions of influence to better further their task. And soon they would all be listening to him.

He had always felt this should be the case, discovering his true nature and unleashing his full potential seemed therefore preordained.

And when his program completed he would hold the secret to faster than light travel, making him renowned forever and richer than any who had ever lived.

Power, Influence, and Wealth, the Holy Trinity of human desires with which you could buy all lesser desires.

He slammed his notebook down hard onto the space between himself and his PA in a fit of frustration, he had hit a stumbling block, a seemingly impossible calculation that if left unresolved unravelled all the others. Of course he knew that was only part of the program, there was no real block, just the pretence of one.

“I need air!” he cried, “I cant fucking think in this tiny space.”

His PA, who was used to his moods tapped the intercom by her side with perfectly manicured nails of deep red and ordered the driver to pull over at the first available place.

So Andrew thought, this is how the program gets me out of the limo and into danger. The trick now he knew was to fight the programming, to let it run but to let it get ahead of him so he could see what it wanted him to do before he carried it out, just a fraction, a fraction was all he needed.

The limo began to slow and then it smoothly turned into a small road side gas station.

Andrew threw open his door as soon as the limo had stopped and got out, he inhaled deeply and stretched and stared upwards at the sky.

His PA also got out and informed him that the driver was going to top up the tank whilst they were there. The limo pulled slowly away and round to the pumps which were close by the road side.

Andrew looked back to the sky as if for inspiration, which in fact was what the program was telling him to do, but a moment ago, he was acting it out now almost a full second out of synch, more than long enough to spot the danger.

He internally watched as the stumbling block crumbled away and the last piece of the mathematical conundrum was revealed.
He cried out with a great whoop, and then began patting at his pockets and shouting at his PA,”Where is my fucking notebook? Have you seen it? Have you got it? No? Then where the fuck is it then?””

“I think you left it in the limo,” his PA replied steadily but looked braced for an outburst and got one.

“I left it in the limo, no that fucking idiot drove off with it,” Andrew roared pointing a finger at the driver at the pump and charging off towards him.

It was fascinating watching the program of his own demise unfold a moment before performing it. It was his own hubris and ego, had he not been freed of his coding right now he would fully and genuinely believe that the driver was to blame for this, and in a mood of self righteous anger and indignation that such a lowly persona as a driver, a fucking driver, could be responsible for him not getting down in his notebook where it could be checked against the rest of his calculations, the greatest discovery of humanity, well it made his blood boil. Or would do if he were not fully in control of himself.

And then he saw it out the corner of his eye, a sleek long grey shape that when the sun bounced off it blazed in silver, his personal shark of the road, the greyhound bus thundering towards the station.

He got to the back of the limo and began yelling at the driver “You fucking idiot! Why did you drive off with my notebook? Have you any idea in that tiny little brain of yours what could be lost because of you?”

And there it was he was programmed in his anger to storm round the back of the limo, catch his foot on a loop of hosing from the pump and fall right out onto the road in front of the bus, and he had a second to avoid doing it.

With an extra effort of focus and a sense of triumph he stepped carefully and firmly over the hosing, broke his programming, and in that instance got the rush of understanding as the secrets of faster than light travel were finally revealed to him.

“I fucking well win!” he cried throwing his arms in the air as the last of his original programming ran and  the first lines of code from the virus activated.

Behind him a voice said, “I'm sorry.”

And he felt two strong hands thrusting into his back hurtling him uncontrollably out onto the road and into the oncoming bus, which despite the driver slamming on the brakes hit him full on and sent his body spinning and skidding off down the road leaving a bloody trail behind it.

“Oh my God,” Harry said panting as the bus hissed to a halt and the PA came running towards the incident with a hand over a O of horror mouth.

“I am sorry,” Harry repeated again as people from the bus and the gas station gathered at the body, “now I hope to God you keep your side of the deal Pal, I don't want to remember this,” he said, “I pray to God you are capable of making this one choice.”

He felt a tingling sensation in his hands that spread to all his body and then memory drained away.


Last edited by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:38 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:36 am

Epilogue


It was a slow day in the office. Harry was sitting at his desk, in the corner wall a mounted TV was playing the news.
Arthur was half sitting half leaning on the edge of the desk watching the TV, “What about the Anderson case?” he suggested.

“Waste of time, “Harry retorted, “its a crock of shit, some kids messing around.”

He frowned and then for no real reason reached inside his jacket and took out his ID wallet. He opened it and looked inside, his ID was inside it, just as it should be. What had he been expecting?
Puzzled by his own actions he put it back in his jacket but felt oddly happy that it was there and for no discernible reason, where else would it be?

“Has it been that long since we had a decent case you've forgotten what you do?” Anderson asked with a smile glancing down at him.

“Yeah, something like that,” Harry replied uncertainly. He picked up his phone from his desk where it had been sitting atop a sheaf of forms and idly tapped at the screen.

“Could you give me five minutes Arthur? I want to call my wife,” Harry said.

“Sure, I'll go get us a couple of Mountain Dews,” he stood up from the desk and made for the door but stopped as something caught his eye on the TV screen, “Hey,”” he said, “that genius guy, what was his name, the one with the really hot wives?”

“Andrew Williams,” Harry supplied.

“Yeah him, he's dead, hit by a bus at a gas station somewhere out west. What a way to go, roadkill. I heard he was an arrogant son of a bitch, did you see that interview his second wife did on him? What a dick!”

Harry looked at him sharply, “Don’t speak ill of the dead Arthur,” he said surprised at his own strong reaction.

“I'll go get those drinks,” Arthur replied and left the office.

Harry stared at the TV, there was the usual voyeuristic aerial shots from some news helicopter gloating above the scene.

He reached for the remote and switched it off and called home.

“Hi, its me....no nothings wrong, just a slow day at the Bureau. All the bad guys must have taken the day off. But I was thinking, how would you feel about going to church this Sunday?”




PAL watched the numbers resolve on her screen and fall back into a regular pattern. The last of the problems from the glitch had been worked from the System, it was functioning normally again.

She glanced at the set of numbers that represented the current continuum of one Harry Stanton.
She could no more have kept to his deal and made the choice to save him rather than purge him than she could have stopped the purge itself had the virus got out.

And yet there he was.

She sometimes wondered if Above could made choices, or if even those choices were merely the illusion of choice like her own.

She would probably never know.

She tapped the desk with one graceful finger, “Send word Above to the General Overseers Department, all programs running according to protocols.”


The End

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Post by David H Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:58 am

Thanks Petty! Maybe later tonight.

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Post by David H Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:48 am

Damn! Here I was the whole time hoping to learn the secret to faster-than-light travel Mad 

(great story though! Very Happy Thumbs Up  )

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Post by halfwise Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:00 pm

Wait a minute, when did all the extra stuff I haven't read get added? I kept looking back and seeing stuff I had already seen, hmmm...

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:49 pm

Thanks Dave- sorry no universe shattering secrets were revealed, or were they?  Wink 

Its largely the same as the original version Halfy (still on the original thread) but David asked if I could put it all together into one uninterrupted piece once I had finished. And as I hadn't actually gone back and read it through from the start myself I took the opportunity when putting all the bits together to do some tiding up, a few editorial changes, and to add a few bits here and there to flesh certain scenes or characters out a little and a couple of small changes to smooth out incontinences arising form me making this story up as I went along.

So for anyone who hasn't read the original this would be the better one to read- and for those who have there are some little extras.

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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:44 pm

Thanks for putting it together Petty. I'm glad that you were able to break free of those studio restrictions in your Director's Cut of the story.  Razz 

I will add that the offer to go get a couple Mountain Dews seemed completely incongruous with the actual tastes a couple of middle-aged FBI employees might have. But then again, Who knows!

Hey you can go start working more on Desolation of Smaug now.

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Post by David H Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:35 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:Thanks Dave- sorry no universe shattering secrets were revealed, or were they?  Wink 


Wait, you're not implying that if I start getting close to solving the faster-than-light problem, I might just suddenly meet with a bus accident in the middle of my bog, are you?  Suspect

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu May 01, 2014 12:34 pm

I'm not saying anything Dave, I'm not programmed too  Very Happy

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu May 01, 2014 3:40 pm

I will add that the offer to go get a couple Mountain Dews seemed completely incongruous with the actual tastes a couple of middle-aged FBI employees might have. But then again, Who knows!- Forest

I'm middle-aged and partial to the odd drop of Dr Pepper  Shrugging 

But th emain reason for Mt Dew is a (probably erroneous) association I have with it from my youth when the US Naval Base was here- they seemed to go through an awful lot of it- and at that time it didnt exist here (not sure it does now) so in my head its an 'American drink'.

I am generally a strong believer in write about places you know, a rule I broke for this so there are probably a lot of anomalies like that culture wise (I noted when I put the bits together for example I had used pavement instead of sidewalk).
In fact the only reason it is set in the US is for some reason when I came up with idea the bus I saw in my head was a US one and I liked the image.

Maybe I should get a UShobbit to sort through it for erroneous culture.

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Post by halfwise Thu May 01, 2014 4:17 pm

Mt Dew is very American, but these hyper caffeinated sugar bombs sort of stay wedged in the youth culture, especially now as people get more health conscious. But teenagers and 20-somethings don't give a shit, so depending on their age I'd say Mt Dew is a very good cultural tag. How old were these guys?

I have very fond memories of it myself. To my young tongue it was the taste of ambrosia. Every couple of years I may drink a quarter of a pint bottle at a time, and it goes flat before I'm done with it.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Thu May 01, 2014 4:23 pm

How old were these guys?- Halfy

Well there were vending machines all over on the Base, and that catered to everyone from your 18 year old Oorah Marine types to the grizzled Officers in the Officer's Club.

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Post by Amarië Sun May 11, 2014 2:44 pm

Arrggg, I try to find time to read this! I want to properly read it, not just rush through.  Mad 

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun May 11, 2014 3:28 pm

Hope you enjoy it Amarie when you find the time.

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